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Why do I have a headache behind my eyes?

Andrew Bellingham

Andrew Bellingham

Pharmacist | 20+ Years | BPharm | Dip Clin Pharm

Headaches are common and can affect people of all ages. They involve pain or discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck, varying in intensity and duration. Understanding what causes headaches, especially those behind the eyes, can help you manage the discomfort better.

A headache occurs when pain-sensitive structures in the head are stimulated. The brain itself does not feel pain, but other areas of the head and neck have nerves that can trigger a headache. These areas include the blood vessels, muscles, nerves, and the tissues covering the brain and spinal cord. When these structures are affected, they send pain signals to the brain, resulting in a headache.

What does a headache behind the eyes mean?

A headache behind the eyes can be particularly uncomfortable. Understanding the symptoms, causes, and whether it’s something to worry about can help you manage this discomfort.


Common symptoms include:

  • Pain or pressure behind one or both eyes
  • Eye strain, especially after prolonged screen time or reading
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Redness or tearing of the eyes
  • Nasal congestion or fullness in the sinuses


Several factors can cause this type of headache:

  • Sinus infections: Inflammation and congestion in the sinuses can cause pain and pressure behind the eyes, often with nasal congestion and facial pain.

  • Eye strain: Prolonged use of screens, reading, or activities requiring intense focus can lead to eye strain and headaches. Uncorrected vision problems can also contribute.

  • Migraines: Severe headaches that cause throbbing pain behind the eyes, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.

  • Cluster headaches: Intense headaches occurring in patterns, causing severe pain around one eye, redness, tearing, and nasal congestion.

  • Tension headaches: Stress, anxiety, and muscle tension can lead to a feeling of tightness or pressure around the head, including behind the eyes.

Should you be worried?

Most headaches behind the eyes are not serious. Sinus infections, eye strain, and tension headaches can often be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers, rest, and lifestyle changes.

However, seek medical attention if you experience:

  • Sudden, severe headaches
  • Headaches with vision changes
  • Persistent or worsening headaches
  • Headaches after a head injury
  • Additional symptoms like fever, stiff neck, or confusion

These could indicate more serious conditions that require prompt medical evaluation. Understanding these factors can help you manage your symptoms and seek appropriate treatment if needed.

Frequently asked questions about headaches

What causes a headache behind the eyes and temples?

A headache behind the eyes and temples can be caused by sinus infections, eye strain, migraines, cluster headaches, or tension headaches.

How can I relieve a headache behind my eyes naturally?

To relieve a headache behind your eyes naturally, try resting in a dark room, applying a cold compress, staying hydrated, practicing eye exercises, and reducing screen time.

When should I see a doctor for a headache behind my eyes?

You should see a doctor for a headache behind your eyes if it is severe, persistent, or accompanied by vision changes, nausea, vomiting, fever, or confusion.

A man pinches his forehead in pain caused by a migraine

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