Pain behind the eye – symptoms, causes and treatments

Eye pains have several descriptions. The most commonly heard description is one that says, “there is something in my eye”. Other eye pain descriptions are burning sensation in the eye, sharp pain in the eye, shooting pain, dull pain, aching eyes, feeling of pressure in the eye, throbbing or stabbing feel in the eye etc. 

Medically, eye pain gets classified into two broad types – orbital eye pain and ocular eye pain. Ocular pains are those that happen on the surface of the eye. Orbital pain designates pains that happen within the eye. Pain behind the eye is distinct and different from these two.

Differentiating Ocular Pain, Orbital Pain and Pain behind the eyes 

Ocular Pain

Pain on the surface of the eye (ocular pain) usually causes a sensation of scratching, burning or itching. Infection, trauma (injury) or foreign objects on the eye are behind ocular pain. Eye drops and rest usually suffice to get rid of ocular eye pain. Here is a quick look at the causes of ocular pain.

  • Foreign objects like a spec of dirt or an eyelash or even a tiny bit of makeup getting into your eye will cause irritation, redness, water oozing from your eye and pain.
  • Conjunctivitis or pink eye is the name for inflammation in the tissue lining the front of your eyes or the underside of the eyelid caused by an allergy or infection. You are likely to have itchy eyes, redness, discharge from the eye, and, in some instances, swelling of the tissue with conjunctivitis.
  • Irritation and infection from contact lenses also cause eye pain and irritation when the lenses are worn overnight or improperly disinfected.
  • Corneal abrasion is an injury to the clear surface that covers your eyes. It is susceptible to injuries and will generate a feel of “something in the eye” when injury happens to it. Itching, redness and pain happen with corneal abrasion and flushing your eye with water that usually works when something indeed gets in the eye, does not work with corneal abrasion.
  • Injury may happen to the eye from exposure to chemical burns e.g. bleach, tanning booths, flash burns, weld spatter etc. All of these generate substantial pain
  • Blepharitis is infection or inflammation to the eye glands at the edge of the eyelids. Such inflammation or infection causes significant pain.
  • Sty or chalazion is a raised bump or nodule on the eyelid created by blepharitis. These are often painful and even the surrounding areas are tender, sensitive and painful to touch.

Orbital Pain 

Orbital pain or pain within the eye is the result of the following causes.

  • Glaucoma is an increase of pressure inside the eye. Apart from pain, nausea, headache and loss of vision are associated with glaucoma. Sudden rise in eye pressure is an emergency condition that needs immediate attention to prevent permanent loss of vision.
  • Optic neuritis is inflammation of the nerve connecting the rear of the eyeball to the brain, known as the optic nerve. Pain and loss of vision are adjunct to this condition.
  • Sinusitis is a condition whereby the sinuses get infected leading to build-up of pressure behind the eyes, generating pain in one or both eyes.
  • An infection of the sinuses can cause pressure behind the eyes to build. As it does, it can create pain in one or both eyes.
  • Migraine attacks have a common side effect of eye pain.
  • Injuries that penetrate injuries to the eye often cause significant eye pain. Such injuries are often the result of a person being hit with an object or being involved in an accident.
  • Iritis is an uncommon condition of inflammation in the iris, causing pain deep inside the eye.

Pain behind the eye

Pain behind the eye is not directly related to a condition on or within the eye. It is the result of eye pressure being impacted by conditions other than any on or within the eye.

Symptoms of pain behind the eye

It is difficult to pinpoint specific symptoms for pain behind the eye. There are several health conditions that generate pain behind the eyes. The pain itself varies from dull aches to sharp, intense pains. Some of you may experience a sharp pain behind the eye, while many of you may have experienced deeper, tearing pain inside your head. Other symptoms include sensitivity to light, redness in the eyes, experiencing pain while moving the eye and even changes in vision. If you’re living in Aurangabad and you’re experiencing such symptoms visit an eye specialist in Aurangabad.

Causes of pain behind the eye

The most common conditions triggering pain behind the eye are:

Eye strain – Your eyes get strained when you keep staring at something for extended periods of time. You land up with dry, tired and blurry eyes. You land up with strained eyes through 
  • Long hours spent staring at a screen
  • Being exposed to glare
  • Working, reading or watching screens in poor lighting
  • Driving long distances
  • Not using glasses or wearing ones of outdated prescription
  • Undetected or untreated vision problems
Migraine – Migraine is a brain related condition that causes headaches very frequently along with severe pain behind the eye. Visual disturbances are symptomatic of migraine. Such disturbances include –
  • Shimmering lights
  • Zig-zag lines
  • Flashes of light

Often only one side of the head gets affected and pain worsens with every movement of the head, exposure to sound, light and even smell – whether light or strong. Nausea and even vomiting are associated with migraine headaches.

Sinus infection – This is often confused with migraine as symptoms overlap between the two. Sinus infection is however differentiated primarily by the thick, discoloured nasal discharge associated with viral or bacterial infection.

It is also characterised by facial pain, headache, fever, and loss of smell and a feeling of pressure.

Cavernous sinus thrombosis – This is quite a rare condition and is caused by a bacterial infection causing a septic blood clot to develop in the cavernous sinus, which is a vein that runs between the back of the eye sockets and the bottom of your brain. This condition is a potential threat to life. 

Dental infections, tonsillitis, infections of the ear, nose and throat, pharyngitis and sinusitis are other conditions under which cavernous sinus thrombosis may occur.

If you are suffering from uncontroll diabetes or receiving treatment for cancer, you run the risk of being affect by cavernous sinus thrombosis. Sudden severe headaches, changes in vision, high fever and pain or swelling around your eyes are other symptoms associate with this condition.

Dental problems – The jaws and eyes have three nerve branches in common. Thus, issues with your jaws are potential pain producers for the eyes too. Tooth infections and dysfunction in the jaw joint i.e. temporomandibular (TMJ) disorder, often cause pain behind the eye associated with symptoms like watery eyes, light sensitivity and eye strain.

Treatments for pain behind the eye

For Eye Strain: Give rest to your eyes a chance to rest and recover. Try the 20-20-20 rule, requiring you to look away to a distance of at least 20 feet for 20 seconds every 20 minutes. Over-the-counter artificial tears also help relieve dry, tired out eyes.

For Migraine: You may be advised over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medicine or prescribed medication to balance chemical changes leading to a migraine.

Prevention of elements that trigger migraine are often the best way to treat migraine. Common triggers include:

  • Food like red wine, cheese etc.
  • Artificial sweeteners and food additives.
  • Pregnancy or menstruation induced hormonal imbalances.
  • Strong emotions inducing stress and anxiety.
  • Odours, temperatures, sounds, lights and such environmental factors.
  • Irregular or poor sleep patterns.
  • Poor posture.
  • Dehydration.
  • Medications like sleeping pills or hormonal treatments.

For sinus infection: You may be prescribed antibiotics to treat sinus infection from bacteria. A CT scan may be advise to ascertain whether you are suffering pain behind the eye due to sinus infection or migraine.

For cavernous sinus thrombosis: Antibiotics and antimicrobial therapies are prescribed for the condition, usually for 3 – 4 weeks. You continue to be closely monitor even after the antibiotics have been discontinue. Corticosteroids, anticoagulants may also be prescribe if your doctor deems necessary. At times, depending on the conditions, critical care hospitalisation may be necessary.

For dental problems: When all the other conditions for pain behind the eye have been exhausted, you are likely to be referred to an orthodontist for detecting dental problems and treatment. Teeth aligners alleviate stress on the muscles and joints in the head and neck, giving relief from pain behind the eye when emanating from dental problems.


Pain behind the eyes may be due to –

  • The brain and eyes attempting to compensate for poor vision. 
  • Dry eyes or inflammation arising from scleritis or optic neuritis. 
  • Eye strain.
  • Migraine.
  • Sinus infection.
  • Cavernous sinus thrombosis.
  • Dental problems.

You need to seek medical attention if you affect by one or more of the following conditions: 

  • Severe, persistent pain in the eye or behind the eye
  • Headache and fever
  • Extremely sensitive to light
  • Seeing halos around light
  • Sudden change of vision
  • There is swelling in and around your eyes
  • Difficulty in moving your eyes or keeping them open
  • Blood or pus oozing from your eyes

Bajaj Finserv Health brings you eye specialist in Aurangabad and other small, medium and large locations at your fingertips to avail online doctor consultation for pain behind your eye and every ailment associated with or around it.

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