Experiencing pressure or pain behind the eyes can be a disconcerting sensation. While it is often temporary and associated with common factors like headaches or sinus pressure, there are instances when it could indicate a more serious underlying condition. In this article, we will explore the various causes of pressure or pain behind the eyes and discuss the best treatments available. Whether you’re a young adult or in your prime years, understanding and addressing this issue is essential for maintaining healthy eyes and overall well-being.

Pressure or Pain: A Symptom to Pay Attention To

  • Pressure or pain behind the eyes can be accompanied by symptoms such as blurry vision, itching, redness, or bulging.
  • While temporary discomfort is usually harmless, persistent or worsening symptoms should be evaluated by a medical professional.
  • Optometrists, ophthalmologists, physicians, or specialists may be involved in diagnosing the underlying cause.

Potential Causes of Eye Strain

  • Prolonged use of digital screens or engaging in tasks that require intense visual focus can result in eye strain.
  • Symptoms include mild pressure or pain behind the eyes, blurry vision, and dryness due to decreased blinking.
  • Taking regular breaks, practicing the 20-20-20 rule (looking away from the screen every 20 minutes), and ensuring proper lighting can alleviate eye strain.

Addressing Eye Pain: When to Seek Medical Attention

Eye pain can be a distressing experience that requires prompt attention. While we all wish for perfect eye health, sometimes discomfort arises unexpectedly. It’s important to recognize when your eye pain warrants a visit to the doctor. Here are the key signs that indicate the need for immediate medical attention:

  1. Eye pain accompanied by a pink or red color: If your painful eye appears flushed or bloodshot, it may indicate the presence of a foreign object. Attempting to alleviate the discomfort through blinking or rinsing is reasonable, but persistent pain and redness necessitate professional evaluation. Additionally, chronic redness and discomfort could be signs of dry eye, a condition characterized by inadequate lubrication of the eyes.
  2. Waking up with crusty lashes: Crusty lashes in the morning could indicate various conditions, including conjunctivitis (commonly known as pink eye), dry eye, or blepharitis (eyelid inflammation). These conditions may cause discharge, redness, swollen eyelids, and a burning sensation. While warm compresses can provide temporary relief, consulting with an eye doctor is essential to determine the appropriate treatment.
  3. Sensitivity to light accompanied by eye pain: Eye pain combined with light sensitivity suggests an underlying issue that requires attention. Dry eye, blepharitis, or even corneal abrasion (a scratch on the outermost layer of the eye) can lead to these symptoms. Seeking medical evaluation is crucial, as corneal abrasions can progress to corneal ulcers if left untreated.
  4. Intense heat or burning sensation in the eyes: Eye conditions such as dry eye, allergies, and photokeratitis (UV damage to the cornea) can cause a sensation of heat or burning. Photokeratitis, in particular, can result in additional symptoms such as swelling and excessive tearing. While over-the-counter remedies may offer temporary relief, a doctor’s examination can provide an accurate diagnosis.
  5. Blurry vision or unusual changes: Blurry vision is a common symptom associated with various eye conditions, including keratitis (corneal inflammation). Keratitis often presents with redness, excessive tearing, light sensitivity, and a foreign body sensation. Ignoring keratitis can lead to permanent vision damage, emphasizing the need for prompt medical attention.

Potential Causes of Pressure or Pain Behind the Eyes

Instigators:Causes & Relief:
BlepharitisInflammation or infection of the eyelid's oil glands can lead to pain in or behind the eye.

Proper eyelid hygiene and, if needed, prescribed treatments can help manage this condition.
Chalazion or StyeThese localized irritations occur when a gland in or around the eyelid becomes blocked, leading to a lump.

Styes often cause pain and sensitivity, while chalazions are typically painless. Identifying these conditions early can help alleviate discomfort and promote healing.
Chemicals or objects in the eyeAccidental exposure to chemicals or foreign objects can cause acute pain and potential damage to the eye.

Immediate medical attention is necessary to minimize complications.
Corneal damageAbrasions or ulcers on the cornea can result in pain in or behind the eye.

Prompt evaluation by an eye care professional is crucial for proper treatment and prevention of complications.
ConjunctivitisCommonly known as pink eye, conjunctivitis causes redness, itching, and swelling of the eye.

It may result from allergies.
Face injuryTrauma to the face, such as fractures, can cause pressure or pain behind the eyes.

Symptoms may include swelling, double vision, and reduced eyesight.

Seeking immediate medical attention is essential to assess and treat any potential damage.
Grave's diseaseOveractive thyroid gland can lead to eye-related symptoms like pressure, bulging eyes, and sensitivity to light.

Seeking medical attention from an endocrinologist is crucial for managing Grave's disease and its ocular manifestations.
Headaches and migrainesHeadaches and migraines often manifest as pressure or pain behind the eyes.

Other associated symptoms include pulsing pain, nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, and visual disturbances.

Identifying triggers and adopting stress-reducing techniques can help manage these conditions effectively.
IritisInflammation of the iris, the colored part of the eye, can result in deep-seated eye pain that may feel as if it originates from behind the eye.

Other symptoms include light sensitivity, redness, floating spots in the visual field, and blurry vision.

Prompt diagnosis and treatment of iritis are crucial for preserving your eye health.
KeratitisPainful inflammation of the eye can be caused by factors such as excessive sun exposure, bacterial infections, or the herpes simplex virus. The main symptom of keratitis is eye pain, including a sensation of pressure or discomfort behind the eye. Light sensitivity may also indicate inflammation. Taking precautions and seeking appropriate treatment can help manage keratitis effectively.
Optic neuritisInflammation of the optic nerve can cause pain or pressure behind the eye, along with reduced vision and color blindness.

Prompt evaluation and treatment are necessary to prevent further complications.
ScleritisInflammation of the white part of the eye, known as sclera, can manifest as pressure or pain behind the eyes.

If you experience such symptoms, it's crucial to consult a healthcare professional as they might be indicative of underlying conditions like acute angle-closure glaucoma.
Sinus infections or allergiesSinusitis and allergies can cause pressure or pain behind the eyes due to the sinuses' proximity.

Symptoms may include a runny or stuffy nose, loss of smell, headaches, and fatigue.

Treating the underlying cause, such as with decongestants or antihistamines, can alleviate the discomfort.
ToothacheA tooth infection can radiate pain to the face, causing pressure or discomfort around the eye.

Addressing dental issues promptly can alleviate associated eye symptoms.
UveitisUveitis refers to a group of inflammatory diseases that cause swelling and potential damage to various eye tissues, including the iris, ciliary body, and choroid.

This inflammation can spread to other parts of the eye, such as the retina and optic nerve. Recognizing the symptoms of uveitis, such as swelling and discomfort, can help in early detection and appropriate treatment.

How to Avoid Pressure Behind the Eyes in the Future

Understanding the complexity of eye conditions and their overlapping symptoms highlights the importance of consulting an eye doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. While it may be challenging to self-diagnose the underlying cause of your eye pain, a comprehensive eye examination by a medical professional will provide the necessary guidance. Remember, prioritizing your eye health through timely medical intervention is the best approach to address eye pain effectively.

  1. This Is When to See a Doctor About Eye Pain ASAP. (June 2018). SELF.
  2. What Facts Should You Know About Eye Pain? (October 2019). eMedicineHealth.
  3. What Is Scleritis? (November 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
  4. What Are the Symptoms of Glaucoma? (September 2019). Glaucoma Research Foundation.
  5. Persistent Iritis, With a Few Twists. (November 2008). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
  6. Eye Strain. (November 2019). MedicineNet.
  7. What Are Chalazia and Styes? (August 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
  8. What Is Blepharitis? (August 2019). American Academy of Ophthalmology (AAO).
  9. Uveitis. (July 2019). National Eye Institute (NEI).

Schedule your free consult today

Click here to learn more

Get started on your journey to clearer, crisper vision with Laser Eye Center™. Our expert team of doctors are trained and skilled in the latest technology and methods for laser vision correction. To learn more about our state-of-the-art All Laser LASIK technology or about All Laser LASIK itself, contact us today. Schedule your FREE All Laser LASIK consultation by calling today.