Headaches are defined as pain in any region of your head. The pain can range from your temples and forehead to the base of your neck or behind your eyes.
A number of different headache types or other conditions can cause aches behind one or both eyes. In addition to pain, headaches in this area may also cause a sensitivity to light and eye discomfort.
While headaches of any type are common, knowing the cause can help you treat it at home. It can also help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis in order to administer the most effective treatment.
Tension headaches are the most common form of headache. Anyone is susceptible to this type of headache, though they’re more common in women.
Tension headaches are often considered to be episodic and can occur one to two times per month. However, they can become chronic and occur 15 days every month for three months or longer.
Tension headaches are described as causing a tightening feeling or pressure around the forehead. Pain behind the eyes can also occur. Other symptoms associated with this form of headache include:
- dull head pain
- scalp tenderness
- neck and forehead pain
Cluster headaches are a series of three or four short but painful headaches. They’re not as common as tension headaches.
Cluster headaches can last as short as 15 minutes to over an hour. They’re described as a searing or piercing painful sensation usually located behind one eye. Other symptoms you may experience with cluster headaches include:
Migraines are described as pressure or pain behind the eyes. They’re considered worse than regular headaches because they can cause pain lasting hours to days at a time. Migraine pain can become so severe that it may affect your quality of life.
Aside from debilitating pain, you may also experience:
Some cases of headaches and pain behind the eyes are symptoms of uncorrected vision issues.
Eyestrain from staring at a television or computer screen — or even undiagnosed nearsightedness — can overstimulate the brain. This overstimulation can cause the brain and eye to make up for vision impairment, often resulting in a headache.
Other eye conditions that could cause headache pain behind the eye include:
- scleritis, or severe inflammation affecting the white outer coating of the eye
- optic neuritis, or inflammation of the optic nerve
- Graves’ disease, an autoimmune disorder
- glaucoma, an eye disease affecting the optic nerve
A sinus infection, or sinusitis, is the inflammation or congestion of tissues lining your sinuses. It can cause headachelike pain as a response to nasal congestion.
This congestion is usually coupled with pressure often felt across the forehead, cheeks, and behind the eye. In addition to pain and pressure, other symptoms you may experience include:
- stuffy nose
- aches in your upper teeth
- worsening pain when you lie down
Different headache types have different triggers. Some of the more common include:
- alcohol use
- exposure to strong perfume odors
- loud noises
- bright lights
- hormonal changes
- lack of sleep
- emotional stress
Common over-the-counter painkillers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil), can treat headaches. However, these medications should be used sparingly to prevent so-called “rebound headaches.” These can occur after your body becomes accustomed to the medication, spiking pain once the medicine wears off.
Other effective treatments to improve pain symptoms from headaches include:
- exercising daily
- avoiding or reducing the intake of processed foods
- avoiding or limiting alcohol use
- eliminating tobacco use
- avoiding or limiting caffeine intake
If your condition worsens after implementing these treatment methods, or if you begin to experience irregular symptoms paired with your headache pain, seek immediate medical attention. It could be a sign of a more serious vision issue that needs correction or a medical issue needing treatment.
Headaches behind your eyes aren’t uncommon. The pain may be the result of various common headache types.
However, if your headache pain and discomfort begins to affect your vision or is accompanied by abnormal symptoms, you may have a more serious issue. Don’t self-diagnose or ignore your symptoms and consult your doctor. The earlier you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can receive treatment to prevent or reduce your headache episodes.