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Headache with Eye Pain: What Does It Mean and What Should You Do?

Written by Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD · Pharmacology

Updated Jun 04, 2021

Headache with Eye Pain: What Does It Mean and What Should You Do?

In general, headaches are common and not a cause for alarm. According to some experts, there are actually over 100 types of headaches each with different triggers, characteristics, and underlying causes. A headache with eye pain can feel like a double whammy, especially when it interferes with your work or other activities. Learn more about the possible causes of this type of headache and how to manage it.

Headache Pressure Points That Can Help Relieve Pain

Causes of headache with eye pain

Tension headaches

First, tension headaches are one of the major types of headaches people commonly experience. Here, the pain can be felt around the entire circumference of the head. People often compare it to wearing a tight cap or headband. The quality of the pain is usually dull rather than sharp or stabbing. The pain is said to be caused when the muscles around the head and neck contract or become tense.

Tension headaches can go away on their own but avoiding triggers or exacerbating substances can reduce their frequency and duration. Stress, dehydration, lack of sleep are just some factors that can cause tension headaches with eye pain. Rest and OTC pain-relievers such as ibuprofen and paracetamol can help.


Migraines are often thought of as severe headaches, but they are actually in their own category. Headaches caused by migraines can be considered a neurological disorder. What sets a migraine apart from other types of headaches are the different stages that occur. Many people who experience migraines get an aura before the onset, which is a combination of visual and physical sensations.

As a migraine becomes more severe, it can present with a headache with eye pain. In addition, you can become more sensitive to light and sound. Unfortunately, there is no cure for migraines. However, symptoms can be treated using pain-relievers and avoiding triggers. Some triggers for migraines are hormonal fluctuations, stress, alcohol, caffeine, lack of sleep, temperature, and physical exertion.

headache with eye pain

Eye strain

People who frequently use computers or gadgets throughout the day can experience eye strain over time. The problem with staring at a screen for long periods of time is that it can fatigue the muscles of the eyes. Additionally, people tend to blink less while looking at screens, which leads to dryness and irritation. While eye strain is preventable, sometimes it can be a sign that it’s time for glasses or a new prescription.

Preventing Eye Strain: The 20-20-20 Rule Reminder


Glaucoma is a condition that affects the eyes, specifically the optic nerve. It is more common in people with diabetes and elderly adults. There are two types of glaucoma: open-angle and closed-angle.

Closed-angle or angle-closure glaucoma occurs when there is a blockage in the anterior chamber of the eye, the space in front of the lens. Fluid within the eye gets trapped and pressure increases. This intraocular eye pressure can cause a headache with eye pain, blurry vision, nausea, and vomiting. Eye redness and eye pain can be severe.

Glaucoma requires an evaluation and treatment from a doctor, therefore, should not be treated at home. The doctor will measure your intraocular pressure and recommend medications. In some cases, surgery is necessary to relieve the pressure and restore vision.


Sinusitis or swelling of the sinuses may also cause headache with eye pain.

Sinuses are spaces in the skull located around the nose and eye areas. The sinuses help to drain fluid and provide structure to the skull without weighing it down. Within the sinuses are blood vessels and respiratory epithelium, which is responsible for mucus production and filtering particles when we breathe. Some areas also house smell receptors.

Usually, sinus infections are viral. Sometimes bacteria can also be responsible. When the pathogen enters the cells that line the sinuses, it can cause inflammation. As pressure builds up within the bony sinuses, it can cause a headache with eye pain.

If sinusitis is caused by a virus, antibiotics are not given. Instead, rest, hydration, and medications like decongestants and OTC pain relievers can be used. If sinusitis is caused by allergies, like rhinitis, nasal sprays and antihistamines can also be used.

Cluster headaches

This is the prototypical headache concentrated behind one eye that may be with tearing. It is less common than the previously mentioned conditions.

Key Takeaways

In summary, a headache with eye pain can be present with a variety of conditions and diseases. Most of the time, it is not a serious issue and can be resolved on its own. However, if you experience them with a fever for more than 3 days or the headache does not resolve within 10 days, you should seek medical attention. Your doctor will be able to determine the underlying cause of your headache and eye pain and prescribe the appropriate treatment.

Learn more about Headaches and Migraines here. 


Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Written by

Stephanie Nera, RPh, PharmD


Updated Jun 04, 2021

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