Common Causes of Pain Behind the Eye

Photo by: Bigstockphoto
Photo by: Bigstockphoto

Pain behind the eyes is often a symptom of various health problems, some of which require immediate treatment. Sometimes the pain is tolerable but other times; the pain is so great it feels like you’re being stabbed with an ice pick. Pain behind the eye can mean many things and to avoid confusion, we are listing down the most common causes of this condition:

Clinical Migraine

A migraine is a is a neurological disorder that causes an eye-watering headache followed by various symptoms ranging from seeing auras and nausea to pain behind the eye. A migraine occurs when the blood vessels in the brain become dilated. No one knows for sure why migraines occur, but there are many ways to avoid an attack.

The kind of food you eat can trigger a migraine attack. You need to figure out what foods trigger migraines. Hormonal imbalance can also trigger an episode, which is why women are more likely to get migraines before, during and after menstruation. To reduce the chances of getting a migraine, talk to your doctor and ask for prescription medication that can either ease the pain or normalize the hormones.

Ocular Migraine

If you feel sudden, sharp pain directly behind one eye or both eyes, this may be a sign of an ocular or a retinal migraine. This very serious condition requires medical attention. That’s because an ocular or a retinal migraine could be a symptom for a tumor that presses the optic nerve or intracranial pressure.


Facial pain is one of the most common signs of sinusitis. This condition is caused by an inflamed or irritated sinus cavity. During a flare-up, pressure can build behind the eyes, causing pain. If you feel pain in the eyes coupled by decongested nose, facial pain and reduced sense of smell, you could be suffering from sinusitis. Take over the counter medications for minor attacks but if symptoms persist, consult your doctor.

Optic Neuritis

Optic neuritis is a condition wherein the optic nerve is inflamed or infected, causing pain behind the eye. It can also cause vision loss. Usually, optic neuritis is one of the main markers for multiple sclerosis. While a simple pain behind the eye is least likely caused by complications from MS, it’s best to have yourself checked.


Scleritis is the inflammation that develops inside the sclera. The sclera is the white, outer coating of the eyeball. Apart from pain behind the eyes, Scleritis symptoms usually include pain upon eye movement, light sensitivity, and redness. Although Scleritis may develop with no underlying cause, there are times when it’s caused by inflammatory diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, scleroderma, connective tissue disease and inflammatory bowel disease. Scleritis is treated with oral and topical steroid drugs and immune system modulator medications.

Cluster Headaches

A cluster headache is similar to a migraine, but it can occur suddenly without any triggers within a 24-hour period. Health experts have no idea what causes a cluster headache, but others point to the hypothalamus in the brain as the reason behind its occurrence. Symptoms of a cluster headache include swelling and pain behind one eye, runny nose, and excessive tearing.

Dry Eye Syndrome

The symptoms of dry eye syndrome range from headaches and light sensitivity to pain behind the eye and dry eyes. This condition is treated with artificial tear dropped directly into the eyes several times every day.

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