What To Know if You're Constantly Getting Headaches Behind Your Eyes

what headaches behind your eyes mean according to neurologists

Neurologists call headaches behind the eyes “retro-orbital headaches,” which means “behind the eyeball socket.” The rest of us call them “hell.”

The only thing worse than a headache is a headache that comes back—over and over and over again. If you have frequently occurring headaches behind your eyes, the pain likely isn’t just physical, because it’s also hindering your ability to enjoy life, be productive and just exist in peace.

Of course, if you have any health issues, your physician is the absolute first place to go for advice. That said, if you’ve been suffering and are awaiting an appointment, here’s what neurologists want you to know about getting constant headaches behind your eyes.

Related: 6 Most Common Types of Headaches

What Headaches Behind Your Eyes Mean, According to Neurologists

There can be several causes of headaches behind your eyes. They include:

Vision and eye problems

According to many neurologists, a frequent cause for headaches behind your eyes, especially if you get them often, may be your vision.

“Sometimes people feel pains behind their eyes from issues inside of their eyes and getting an evaluation by an ophthalmologist or optometrist is a usual first step,” Dr. Clifford Segil, a neurologist at Providence Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California, tells Parade. “Eye strain and issues anterior to the optic nerve, or issues in your retina or cornea may also cause this type of discomfort.”

Farsightedness and reading in dim lighting can cause headaches behind the eyes too, neurologist Dr. Benjamin Emanuel of Keck Medicine of USC Hospital in Los Angeles says. New York City neurologist and headache specialist Dr. Thomas Berk notes that more serious eye issues like glaucoma can also cause pain behind the eyes.

If it’s been a while since you’ve had an eye exam and you’re noticing you’re getting headaches often, you may want to make an appointment with your ophthalmologist to get corrective lenses, whether for the first time or to update your prescription (because our eyes change as we age).

Related: What To Know About Eye Strain Headaches

“Cluster headaches”

Cluster headaches are, to put it simply, dreadful, and if you’re getting frequent headaches behind your eyes, they may be the culprit.

“As a neurologist, I am always worried headaches behind my patient’s eye could be cluster headaches, which may involve tearing of the eyes and a droopy eyelid,” Dr. Segil says.

Related: Easy Headache Relief Tips


If your headaches behind your eyes are accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, blurred vision or confusion, or if the pain feels like it’s radiating to other parts of your head, a migraine may be to blame, according to Dr. Berk.

Related: Migraine Home Remedies

Allergies and sinus infections

Sinus infections can cause pain behind the eyes, Dr. Emanuel advises. If your pain is accompanied by sinus pressure in your cheeks or gums, nasal congestion, runny nose or post-nasal drip, you may want to visit your doctor or an otolaryngologist (ear, nose and throat specialist) for treatment.

If you’re prone to frequent sinus infections or hay fever allergies, they’ll be the best bets to go through your options, which can range from nasal sprays, oral medications or even surgery (some of which isn’t invasive, so don’t be scared!).

Related: Possible Reasons Why You’re Waking Up With a Headache

How Can Patients Prevent Headaches Behind Their Eyes?

The best way to prevent headaches behind your eyes is to narrow down what’s causing them, for which you’ll need a doctor’s help. If your vision is to blame, wearing corrective lenses and having adequate lighting when you read can make a huge difference.

For cluster headaches, Dr. Segil says, you’ll want to avoid triggers, which can include alcohol, tobacco, bright light, food high in nitrates (like deli meats) and altitude changes. That said, it’s not always easy to identify triggers for cluster headaches, so you’ll want to see a doctor for these if you can.

For migraines, options can include everything from oral medications to Botox injections, Dr. Berk explains, which can help with prevention.

It’s also important to advocate for yourself and not downplay your discomfort, Dr. Berk says, “Remember that migraine and headache disorders like cluster headache can be a serious medical condition for many and should not be dismissed as non-disabling or not a big deal.”

If you have a sinus infection, your doctor may recommend a course of antibiotics, and if you have sinus congestion from allergies, you may be able to prevent it with medication, sinus surgery or allergy shots.

Related: What to Avoid to Prevent Headaches, According to Neurologists

When To Talk to Your Doctor About a Headache Behind the Eyes

Aside from getting a doctor’s help to figure out what’s causing your headaches behind your eyes, there are other times when you’ll want to see a physician for the problem.

“Patients should obtain care from a medical professional whenever there is an acute change in headache character. If something starts suddenly and does not improve over a few days, seeing a medical professional is always the safest course of action,” Dr. Segil explains. “This could be your family physician, an eye doctor, or a neurologist. When presenting to a medical professional you should be ready to answer when the pains began, what makes them better or worse and if there has been associated trauma.”

Dr. Emanuel warns that there are some specific symptoms along with pain behind the eyes, including scleral injection (red, bloodshot eyes), double-vision (or vision changes overall), fever, nausea or vomiting, that should be assessed by a doctor right away.

Next, Foods That May Help Alleviate Headaches



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