Headaches are a symptom of many different health problems. The causes of some of these are known and others are not. Headaches near the eye may signal neurological problems. Affected nerves can be in or near the eye. Infections can also produce eye pain, as can increased pressure in the eye and skull, or problems with blood vessels. A healthcare professional should be contacted to determine the proper course of treatment.
A cluster headache, also known as an ice-pick headache, feels extremely painful, is described as sharp and tends to occur several times a day for weeks to months and then disappear for a similar period of time. They are more common in men than women and are more common during adolescence and middle age, according to the National Institutes of Health. The cause of these headaches is unknown but may be associated with abnormal histamine and serotonin regulation. Cluster headaches may be triggered by alcohol and cigarettes, bright light, heat, exertion, or certain foods and medications.
Infections in and around the eye are another source of headaches near the eye. Several sinuses, which are cavities in the skull bones, are near the eyes. The frontal, maxillary, sphenoid and ethmoid sinuses can be infected with a virus or bacterial pathogen. The chambers or lining of the eye, and the areas behind and around the eye, can be infected as well.
Glaucoma is increased pressure in the eye, and can cause headache and eye pain. Over time it can also damage the optic nerve so a person is not able to see. The exact cause of glaucoma is unknown. However, in open-angle glaucoma and angle-closure glaucoma, the fluid in the eye is unable to drain out and the pressure in the eye rises.
Blood Vessel Problems
Blood vessel problems near the eye or the nerves of the eye also cause headaches. Temporal arteritis, also known as giant cell arteritis, occurs from inflammation of the temporal artery, which runs along the side of the head near the eye. An aneurysm is an abnormal dilation of a blood vessel. If it occurs in the skull near the nerves serving the eye, the pressure from the enlarged blood vessel on the nerves can cause pain, and the blood vessel can burst, which is a medical emergency.
Increased Pressure in the Skull
Increased pressure in the skull is likely to produce pain throughout the head, but can cause localized pain near the eye. The skull is a rigid container, so any condition that takes up space within the skull can increase pressure there. Examples include a brain tumor, which is the excessive abnormal growth of cell in the brain, or an intracranial abscess, which is a localized infection in the skull.
- "Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine"; Anthony Fauci; 17th Ed 2008
- National Institutes of Health: Medline: Cluster Headache
- National Institutes of Health: Medline: Headache