A headache behind the eyes can be alarming. After all, your brain is back there! The good news: it’s not your brain imploding. While doctors don’t fully understand what causes most headaches, they do know that the brain tissue and skull don’t have nerves to register pain. So what is causing your headache? The answer to this question may not be so simple… (although if you want to cut to the chase I will give you at least one root cause to consider at if you answer these 5 questions)
Headache Types that Specifically Cause Headaches Behind the Eyes
Almost all of us have experienced a headache at some point in our lives, but did you know that there are over 100 types of headaches? Pain and tightness behind the eyes is characteristic of many of these types so, unfortunately, it isn’t all that telling of a symptom on its own. Headache types that can cause pain or tightness behind the eyes include:
- Tension Headache
- Orbital Inflammatory Syndrome
- Cranial Nerve Palsies
- Optic Neuritis
- Vision Problems
- Cluster Headaches
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Primary stabbing headaches or ice-pick headaches
So How Can You Determine the Cause of Your Headaches? To best determine the cause of your headache, you will need to consider your other symptoms such as any nausea, vomiting, sleepiness, weakness, congestion, or changes in vision. You should also take note of any pain you have in other areas of your head or neck and consider what else is going on in your body (yes, your skin, digestive health and other aches and pains can be related – take this quiz to see how)
Pay close attention to the timing of your headache.Observing whether your headache occurred after a trauma or injury, with certain types of activities, when you are tired or stressed, or after eating or abstaining from certain foods can help you and your doctor determine possible causes.
You should also track the frequency of your headaches. Some types of headaches such as cluster headaches, chronic daily headaches, and rebound headaches are diagnosed based on frequency. The more information you can provide, the better chance your doctor has of determining the possible cause of the pain behind your eyes.
Signs You Should See a Doctor Immediately While headache pain behind your eyes is generally nothing to be concerned about, there are a few circumstances where it can indicate a potentially serious condition.
You should see your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- A severe headache that comes on very suddenly, like an explosion
- Headache that occurs in the three months following a head or neck injury
- You notice a major change in your headache symptoms or frequency; if your headaches feel different than they have in the past
- A headache that begins after coughing, straining, lifting weights, or other physical exertion
- Headaches that occur with other neurological symptoms such as weakness or numbness on one side, confusion, slurred speech, difficulty speaking, memory problems, problems with balance, or vision changes
- Headaches that are accompanied by stiffness of the neck or other signs of illness such as fever, red or painful eyes, and unexplained vomiting
- You have a suppressed immune system or are on oral steroids or immune-suppressing drugs
- You have a history of cancer that can spread throughout the body
- This is the first time you are experiencing headaches and you have not spoken to your doctor about them in the past
While painful, most headaches are harmless. However, it is important to consult your doctor if you notice any of the above symptoms or have any pressing concerns.
What to Expect When You See Your Doctor
The first step your doctor will take to diagnose the cause of your headaches will be to take a detailed history of your symptoms. The more specific you can be, the better. Your doctor may also perform physical or neurological tests like an MRI or CT scan to rule out the possibility of serious conditions such as a brain tumor. Unfortunately, a doctor is not always able to determine the specific cause of a headache. Once your doctor has ruled out any serious conditions, you can work together to determine a treatment plan. This generally includes a combination of over-the-counter or prescription drugs. There are also a variety of alternative therapies such as herbal supplements, stress relief, lifestyle changes, and acupuncture that can be successful in treating headaches.
While a headache behind the eyes rarely indicates a serious condition, they can have a significant impact on your quality of life. Determining the cause of your headaches will aid in developing a successful treatment plan. If you’ve seen a doctor to rule out serious conditions and were sent home to manage your symptoms with painkillers, you may still want to do further research into the root cause of your headaches. What is your body trying to get you to pay attention to? Take this 5-question quiz on the functional root causes of frequent headaches and migraines, and get started on the road to recovery.