Pain Behind Eyes: 7 Possible Causes

Pain due to a headache can be located anywhere, from the base of your neck to your forehead, temples, or even behind your eyes. There are several types of headaches which involve pain behind one or both eyes. The pain can be accompanied by other visual disturbances like photophobia and watering from eyes.

  1. Tension headache.
  2. Migraine.
  3. Cluster headache.
  4. Sinus headache.
  5. Eye strain headache.
  6. SUNCT Syndrome.
  7. Paroxysmal Hemicrania.
pain behind eyes

1- Tension headache

Tension headache is the most common cause of pain behind eyes and is also the most common type of headache reported. Pain in a tension headache feels like building pressure around the head in form of a band which also involves pain behind eyes.

Causes:

Most common causes of a tension headache are anxiety, stress and depression.

Symptoms:

  • Dull pain that originate from back of head and radiates towards the forehead.
  • Tenderness at the occiput and skull vault.
  • Sleep disturbance and low mood.

Treatment:

Over the counter painkillers: Aspirin, Acetaminophen, Ibuprofen can relieve the pain.
Home remedies: Hot showers and hot massages along with physiotherapy can prove as a long term treatment for tension headache.

2- Migraine

Migraine is a type of headache that can last from hours to days affecting your daily life. In classic migraine (migraine with Auras) the pain behind eyes and half of head (mostly) is usually accompanied by visual disturbances and other neurological symptoms (Auras).

Causes:

Several evidence suggest that Auras in a migraine occur due to depolarization and hyperpolarization of dysfunctional ion channels at the cortical front.

Symptoms:

  • Sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Shimmering, silvery, zigzag lines marching across the visual field
  • Development of a temporary blind spot
  • Weakness.
  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Irritability and low mood.

Treatment:

  • For an acute attack: analgesics, antiemetics, and triptans can be given to manage the symptoms.
  • Excedrin is a drug used to combat severe migraine attacks and proves relief within half an hour.

3- Cluster headache

Characteristic attacks in cluster headache are periodic in nature and they follow a specific duration. Pain is usually felt on one side of head that goes as far as behind the eyes

Causes:

There is no apparent cause for cluster headache but studies suggest that abnormal hypothalamic activity is responsible for cluster headaches.

Symptoms:

  • Nasal discharge and congestion.
  • Pressure in head behind eyes.
  • Sharp pain in head behind eyes.
  • Watery or swollen eyes.

Treatment:

Preventive treatment is usually helpful at the initiation of each cluster episode, this includes: calcium channel blockers, corticosteroids and topiramate

4- Sinus headache

Sinus headache is felt as a result of pressure exerted by accumulation of inflammatory products in the sinuses, due to an inflammation like sinusitis. The pressure and pain behind eyes is accompanied by pain in cheeks upper jaw and nasal bridge.

Causes:

The mucosal surface of sinuses become so inflamed that it blocks the drainage ducts. Thus accumulating the inflamatory products in the sinuses, resulting in pressure to build up and cause pain.

Symptoms:

  • Fever.
  • Fatigue
  • Decreased sense of smell.
  • Runny nose.
  • Constant feeling of pain and pressure in cheeks, forehead, around the eyes, and nasal bridge.

Treatment:

Pain behind the eyes and the underlying disease, which may be an allergy are treated side by side.
For headache: over-the-counter painkillers.
For allergy: Anti-histamines.

5- Eye strain headache

This type of headache is commonly seen in people who who work in front of laptops and computer screens all day. The Headache is typically felt behind the eyes, forehead and temples.

Causes:

Constant bright light, emitting from a computer screen can cause the eyes to dry out. This causes redness, itching, soreness and increased friction in the eyes, the eyes tire out because of the difficulty to focus on the screen and results in pain behind eyes and temples.

Symptoms:

Treatment:

For eye strain headaches there are only prophylactic measures that should be taken. These include: taking a break from looking at a computer screen, sitting farther away from the screen, using anti-glare programs.

6- SUNCT Syndrome

Short-lasting Unilateral Neuralgiform headache attacks with Conjunctival injection and Tearing (SUNCT) is a primary headache syndrome. The headache has characteristic unilateral pain and associated Ipsilateral Autonomic symptoms i.e. Conjunctival Tearing, Pain behind eyes

Symptoms:

  • Headache on one side of head and behind eyes
  • Conjunctival Tearing
  • Migraine like symptoms
  • Reduced sensations and Numbness on the Ipsilateral side

Causes:

There are several times that SUNCT is idiopathic and is included in Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalgias. However other reasons can be:

  • Intracranial lesions compressing the nerve roots.
  • Cerebellopontine Arteriovenous Malformation
  • Autonomic symptoms may present because of the central disinhibition of the Autonomic reflex of the Trigeminal nerve by the hypothalamus.

Treatment:

  • There is no definitive treatment for SUNCT Syndrome but for an acute attack..
  • Botulinum Toxin around the symptomatic areas
  • Nerve block at Gasserian ganglion or first division of Trigeminal nerve can provide temporary or permanent relief.

7- Paroxysmal Hemicrania

Paroxysmal Hemicrania is a rare headache disorder that belongs to the TACs (Trigeminal Autonomic Neuralgia) group of disorders and includes sudden onset of debilitating headache on one side of the head that is short in duration but re-occurs, in some cases, several times a day.

Symptoms:

  • Unilateral pain in the head
  • Pain behind eyes
  • Headache is throbbing in character
  • Resembles a cluster headache
  • Pain is triggered by movement
  • Responsive to indomethacin

Causes:

There is no known cause of Paroxysmal Hemicrania but according to some case studies, here are a list of possible causes

  • Traumatic injury to your neck or head
  • Arteriovenous malformation
  • Pituitary gland tumor

Treatment:

  • Paroxysmal Hemicrania responds very well to indomethacin, an NSAID.
  • Most people reported with complete relief without any sort of treatment.

FAQ

I have a constant pain behind eyes, what are the possible causes?

Tension headache, Migraine, Cluster headache, Sinus headache, Eye strain headache are some of the possible causes.

I have Sinusitis, why do my eyes hurt?

The accumulation of inflammatory products in the sinuses exert a pressure and it causes pain behind eyes, in cheeks and forehead.

I feel as if there’s a tight band around my head, this is also causing pain behind eyes, what can it be?

Tension headaches are felt as increasing pressure and pain around the head in form of a band. The pain is sometimes felt in eyes as as well as forehead.

Can migraines be a possible cause of pain behind eyes?

Migraines usually come with visual symptoms. Also constant pain in half head (in most cases) ranges from the back of head upto forehead and behind the eyes.