Why do I have a headache behind my eyes?

Most people experience headaches that feel like originating from the back of their eyes. They often describe this headache to be pulsating or throbbing in nature. Some people also present with the associating symptoms of nausea or sinus pain etc.

Many people find themselves asking the question, what is the cause of these headaches behind my eyes?

The American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO) defines this as, “physical discomfort due to an eye disease or other medical condition”. But, this does not necessarily mean that this headache is correlated to a disorder of vision or eye. This pain could be what we call as “referred pain”. Referred pain is when the pain felt in one part of the body is actually caused by pain or injury in another part of body. This means that the site or origin of disorder is different from the site of pain. This is because of the interconnecting network of nerves that supply multiple areas and not just a single tissue or organ.

This pain felt behind the eyes is most often some sort of referred pain. One simple way to rule out eye disorder is that if the white portion of your eye i.e. sclera is not red and you do not have other visual complaints like disorientation, distorted or blurry vision etc. then this pain is not related to an eye disorder and is most likely a referred pain.

Some of the notable causes of this “headache behind my eyes” are:

  • Migraine
  • Cluster Headaches
  • Sinus Infection
  • Tension Headaches
  • Glaucoma (affects optic nerve)
  • Scleritis i.e. inflammation of sclera
  • Optic Neuritis i.e. inflammation of optic nerve
  • Grave’s disease (auto-immune disorder with abnormality of thyroid gland)

Another question that most of the people ask is, how to get rid of this headache behind my eyes?

The answer lies in the actual cause of your headache. While symptomatic treatment can relieve your symptoms for the time being but, these treatments are not able to eliminate the cause completely. Symptomatic treatments like pain killers, hot showers or ice packs etc. are not helpful in further prevention of the headache and cannot solve the problem in the long run.

Like in the case of migraine, non-prescription pain killers can relieve the headache. But, in terms of chronic migraine a special medication regimen is required. One of the most important feature is to avoid the trigger factors of migraine. These trigger factors can be flashing lights, fatigue, noise, strong smells etc.

Cluster headaches are treated by oxygen therapy, local anesthetics and other pain relieving medications prescribed by a certified medical professional.

Pain caused by sinus infections usually disappears once the infection is treated. This infection can be treated by anti-biotics and decongestants.

Pain caused by serious eye conditions like glaucoma, Scleritis, optic neuritis and Grave’s disease require immediate hospitalization of the patient. These conditions can have serious outcomes if not treated on time. If you experience unusual headaches behind the eyes then do not take your chances and try home remedies. It is best that you consult an eye specialist immediately.

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