Headaches are defined as pain in any region of your head. A number of different headache types or other conditions can cause aches in the area 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 them at home. It can also help your doctor make an accurate diagnosis in order to administer the most effective treatment.

Tension headaches

Tension headaches are the most common form of headache worldwide. Anyone is susceptible to this type of headache, though they’re more common in women.

Tension headaches may be episodic or chronic. Chronic tension headaches are classified as headaches that occur 15 or more days per month for more than 3 months.

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
  • increased sensitivity to light

Cluster headache

Cluster headaches are sudden, very painful headaches that occur in “clusters” of 1 to 3 headaches a day. They usually occur around the same time of day for several weeks at a time.

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. They often wake people from sleep.

Other symptoms you may experience with cluster headaches include:

Migraine

Migraine is described as periodic, recurring “attacks” of moderate to severe throbbing pain on one side of the head.

A migraine episode usually starts gradually and builds in intensity. Untreated migraine episodes may last from 4 to 72 hours.

Aside from pain, you may also experience:

Eyestrain

Some cases of headaches and pain behind the eyes may be symptoms of eyestrain or excess stress on the eyes.

Eyestrain can be caused by uncorrected vision issues or by an excess of visual stress from staring at a computer, phone screen, television, or book. Experts believe that headaches due to eyestrain can be due to a variety of factors, including:

  • altered blinking patterns (reduced and incomplete blinking)
  • excessive exposure to intense light
  • small font size
  • sitting too close to a screen

Sinusitis

A sinus infection is inflammation or congestion of tissues lining your sinuses. This is called sinusitis. It can cause headache-like 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:

Other eye conditions that may cause headache pain behind the eye include:

Different headache types may have different triggers. Some of the more common headache triggers include:

  • alcohol use
  • hunger
  • exposure to strong perfume odors
  • loud noises
  • bright lights
  • fatigue
  • hormonal changes
  • lack of sleep
  • emotional stress
  • infection

Common over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen (Advil), may ease headache symptoms.

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 medication wears off.

Experts recommend avoiding the use of OTC pain medications more than twice a week.

In more severe cases, your doctor may prescribe drugs to prevent migraine. These include:

Studies suggest that magnesium supplements are a safe, and inexpensive option for migraine prevention, as well as treatment of tension-type headaches, cluster headaches, and migraine attacks.

Headaches may have multiple causes or triggers. Because of this, experts often recommend a holistic approach that involves making lifestyle changes to reduce mental and emotional stress, and avoiding foods that may trigger headaches.

Strategies to reduce headaches and their symptoms include:

  • exercising daily
  • relaxing whenever possible to ease stress
  • establishing a consistent sleep schedule
  • avoiding or reducing the intake of processed foods
  • staying adequately hydrated
  • avoiding or limiting alcohol use
  • eliminating tobacco use
  • avoiding or limiting caffeine intake

If your condition worsens 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.

Additional treatments

Nondrug therapies may be used alongside or instead of traditional therapies to help prevent headaches and reduce symptoms.

Examples of nondrug treatments that may help improve or reduce headache symptoms include:

How do you prevent headaches behind the eyes?

Headaches can be caused by a variety of triggers that may vary among individuals. Keeping a “symptom diary” with detailed records of when your headaches occur may help you understand your headache triggers so that you can avoid them.

Experts generally recommend getting daily aerobic exercise, reducing stress, having a regular sleep schedule, and avoiding tobacco, caffeine, alcohol, and processed foods.

How do you diagnose the type of headache?

A doctor will take a full medical history and physical exam when diagnosing a headache. Keeping a symptom diary in the days or weeks leading up to your doctor’s appointment may help them make a diagnosis.

In some cases, your doctor may refer you to a specialist for further testing.

What are home remedies for headaches behind the eyes?

Home remedies to reduce headache pain include:

  • applying a cold compress to the forehead or back of the neck
  • applying heat to the back of the neck
  • self-acupressure
  • resting in a dark room
  • drinking lots of fluid

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 begin to affect your vision or are accompanied by abnormal symptoms, you should consult your doctor. The earlier you get a diagnosis, the sooner you can receive treatment to prevent or reduce your headache episodes and symptoms.