Updated on  February 22, 2024
5 min read

What Causes Headache Behind the Eyes?

6 sources cited
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Most of the time, a headache behind the eyes does not mean anything serious. Sometimes it’s linked to vision problems or eye strain. However, it’s a good idea to seek medical attention if you frequently experience headaches that involve your eyes. 

It’s common for someone experiencing a headache to feel pain in their face, especially around or behind their eyes. 

These headaches can cause eye pain and might also affect vision and sensitivity to light

Understanding what the location of your headache means can help you alleviate the pain and avoid the same type of headache in the future.

Causes of Headache Behind the Eyes

Here are the most common causes of headaches behind the eyes: 

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They usually aren’t a cause for concern. However, they’re uncomfortable and can interfere with daily life. 

Typically, people prone to tension headaches experience about one or two a month. Some people experience them far more frequently.


Symptoms of tension headaches include:

  • Tight feeling or pressure in the forehead and behind the eyes
  • Dull pain
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Scalp tenderness
  • Increased sensitivity to light  


Migraines often begin with severe pain behind the eyes. They also affect vision and other senses. 

Many people experience migraine pain severe enough to diminish their quality of life. A migraine headache causes excruciating pain that can prevent you from performing daily tasks. 


Migraines can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Eye pain
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to noise
  • Sensitivity to smells
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Mood changes
  • Impaired vision
  • Weakness
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Flashing or bright lights

Migraine symptoms usually begin gradually and become more intense. Untreated migraine attacks can last from 4 to 72 hours.

Cluster Headaches

A cluster headache includes multiple short and painful headaches. Most last for less than an hour but can cause hours-long pain as they occur in clusters of 1 to 3 headaches per day. 


Cluster headaches trigger piercing headache pain, usually behind one eye. Other symptoms include:

  • Swollen eyes
  • Red eyes
  • Excessive tearing
  • Red, flushed face
  • Extreme sweating
  • Droopy eyelid
  • Runny nose or nasal congestion

Sinus Infection

A sinus infection, also called sinusitis, occurs when the lining of the sinuses is inflamed. This causes congestion in the sinuses, which often leads to a headache.

Typically, pressure across the cheeks, forehead, and behind the eyes accompanies congestion. This headache pain is uncomfortable but usually not unbearable. 


In addition to a sinus headache, you may also experience:

  • Stuffy nose
  • Runny nose
  • Post-nasal drip
  • Fatigue
  • Aching in upper teeth
  • Worsened pain when lying down

Eye Strain

Sometimes problems with vision are the cause of headaches behind the eyes. Digital eye strain, or computer vision syndrome, is associated with too much time spent looking at computer screens, phone screens, or televisions. 


Headaches and discomfort in one or both eyes are common symptoms of digital eye strain. Other symptoms may include:

  • Dry eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Neck pain
  • Shoulder pain
  • Back pain

Other Causes

Other causes of headaches linked to the eyes include:

  • Scleritis. Inflammation of the white coating of the eye
  • Optic neuritis. Inflammation of the optic nerve
  • Grave’s disease. An autoimmune disorder that affects the eyes
  • Glaucoma. An eye disease that affects the optic nerve
  • Dry eyes. This occurs when the eyes do not naturally produce enough tears to keep eyes properly lubricated
  • Poor posture. Long-term poor posture causes muscle imbalances that may lead to headaches around the eyes
  • Brain aneurysm. Cause intense pain that may occur behind the eyes

When to See a Doctor

Call your doctor if your headaches continue or worsen even with the appropriate treatment methods. The problem might be associated with a more serious condition.

Potential Triggers of Headache Behind the Eyes

There are several potential triggers of headaches behind the eyes.

Different types of headaches have various triggers. 

Tension Headache Triggers

Several things trigger tension headaches, including:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Eye strain
  • Poor posture
  • Problems with the neck or jaw
  • Bright lights
  • Loud noises
  • Strong smells
  • Hunger
  • Dehydration

Migraine Triggers

Potential triggers of migraine headaches include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Certain foods, including chocolate, alcohol, and MSG
  • Stress
  • Weather changes
  • Strong smells
  • Bright lights
  • Loud noises
  • Hunger

Cluster Headache Triggers

Cluster headaches are typically triggered by:

  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Medications

Treatment for Headache Behind the Eyes 

Understanding and avoiding your specific triggers may help prevent headaches or reduce their severity. If you do get a headache, many treatments are available.

Medication for Headache Behind the Eyes

Most people treat mild to moderate headaches with over-the-counter (OTC) painkillers. These include:

  • Acetaminophen
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen and naproxen

OTC medications should only be used occasionally. Although generally safe, they can trigger side effects, including rebound headaches.

If OTC pain relievers don’t work, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as:

  • Antidepressants
  • Anticonvulsants
  • Muscle relaxants
  • Beta-blockers

Home Remedies for Headache Behind the Eyes

Other remedies that help relieve the pain associated with most headaches include:

  • Daily exercise
  • Avoiding or reducing alcohol use
  • Avoiding processed foods
  • Eliminating the use of tobacco
  • Avoiding or reducing caffeine intake
  • Managing stress with yoga, breathwork, or meditation
  • Sticking to a regular sleep schedule
  • Drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated
  • Avoid skipping meals
  • Ease tension with a warm shower or heating pad
  • Keeping your vision prescription updated
  • Taking frequent breaks when working at a computer


Many types of headaches cause pain behind the eyes. A tension headache is the most common and isn’t a serious medical condition.

Digital eye strain is another common cause of headaches and eye discomfort. 

Many headache remedies are available over-the-counter or involve behavioral or lifestyle changes. You should seek professional medical attention if your headaches are severe or persistent.

Updated on  February 22, 2024
6 sources cited
Updated on  February 22, 2024
  1. Alstadhaug, KB, and Ofte, HK. “Cluster Headache.” Tidsskriftet Den Norske Legeforening, 2015.

  2. Ocular Migraine: When to Seek Help.” Mayo Clinic, 2022.

  3. Eye Pain.” Mayo Clinic, 2023.

  4. Gweh, D, et al. “The Post-Pipeline Headache: New Headaches Following Flow Diversion for Intracranial Aneurysm.” Journal of Vascular and Interventional Neurology, 2020.

  5. Boyd, K. “What Is a Headache?” American Academy of Ophthalmology, 2022.

  6. 4 Ways to Tame Tension Headaches.” Harvard Health Publishing, 2020.

The information provided on VisionCenter.org should not be used in place of actual information provided by a doctor or a specialist.