Pressure Behind the Eye? Discover 6 Common Causes

The complaint of ‘pressure behind the eyes’ has many causes, and some can be sight-threatening.

Experiencing pressure behind your eyes? The root cause might not lie within the eye itself, but in another area of your head or face. Always take this sensation seriously and consult your doctor for a proper diagnosis.

It’s crucial to distinguish eye pressure from eye pain. Eye pain, often described as sharp, burning, or stinging, demands immediate medical attention as it could indicate serious conditions like glaucoma or eye infections.

Let’s explore the most frequent reasons behind that feeling of pressure in your eyes:

1. Understanding Headaches and Eye Pressure

Headaches, whether tension-based or the more severe migraine variety, can often lead to the uncomfortable sensation of pressure behind your eyes. Tension headaches are incredibly common, affecting a vast majority of the population. Migraines, while less frequent overall, bring intense pain and sometimes visual disturbances like zigzag patterns or colorful lights. Migraine attacks can occur sporadically or might be linked to triggers like stress, dietary choices, or medications.

Beyond eye pressure, headaches may also include symptoms like:

  • Eyes that appear red or watery
  • A drooping eyelid
  • Discomfort in the neck and shoulder muscles
  • Facial swelling, typically on one side
  • Facial sweating or flushing
  • Head pain characterized as achy, tight, or severe

2. Sinus infection

Sinusitis, commonly known as a sinus infection, occurs when bacteria or viruses invade the spaces within your facial bones – located behind your nose, eyes, and cheeks. This infection leads to swelling in your sinuses and a buildup of mucus within your nasal passages. This can cause a feeling of pressure concentrated in your upper face, particularly behind your eyes and along your cheekbones.

Beyond facial pressure, here are other common signs of sinusitis:

  • Fever
  • Cough
  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Bad breath
  • Sore throat
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Reduced sense of smell
  • Post-nasal drip (mucus moving down the back of your throat)

If you are experiencing any pressure behind your eyes, contact an eye doctor near you.

3. Graves’ disease

Graves’ disease is an autoimmune condition stemming from an overactive thyroid gland. This overactivity can cause the tissues, muscles, and fat behind your eyes to become enlarged. As a result, the eyeball may protrude from the socket, sometimes leading to issues like dryness or difficulty moving the eyeball. This enlargement is often the source of the pressure sensation behind the eyes.

Eye-related symptoms of Graves’ disease can include:

  • Dryness in the eyes
  • Reduced or impaired vision
  • Seeing double (double vision)
  • Increased sensitivity to light
  • Eye ulcers
  • Eyelids or the eyeball itself appearing swollen
  • Difficulty moving the eye
  • Noticeable bulging of the eye from the socket
  • Irritated, gritty feeling in the eyes
  • Excessive tearing
4. Optic neuritis

Optic neuritis refers to the inflammation and swelling of your optic nerve, the crucial connection between your eyes and your brain. This condition frequently manifests as pain and temporary vision loss. Typically, symptoms worsen over a few days and may persist for 4-12 weeks.

Common signs of optic neuritis include:

  • Diminished vision, often affecting a single eye
  • Painful eye movement
  • Atypical pupil reactions to bright light
  • Colors appearing faded or less vibrant (color blindness)
  • Blurry vision
5. Toothache
A severe toothache, particularly one caused by an infection, can trigger throbbing pain and a feeling of pressure that extends beyond the tooth itself. This phenomenon is known as “referred pain,” where discomfort is perceived in a neighboring area of the face rather than directly at the source within the mouth.
6. Injury to the face

Injuries to your face, like those sustained during car accidents or sports activities, can lead to pressure and pain both behind and surrounding your eyes. Eye socket fractures can cause significant damage to eye muscles, nerves, and even the sinuses.

Potential consequences of eye socket fractures include:

  • Noticeable bruising around the eye (a black eye)
  • Swelling in and around the eye area
  • Seeing double, blurriness, or overall decreased vision
  • Numbness in areas of the face near the injury
  • The eye appearing either sunken or protruding abnormally
  • A flattened appearance to the cheek, potentially accompanied by severe pain when opening the mouth

To successfully alleviate pressure behind your eyes, it’s essential to address the underlying reason for this discomfort. While over-the-counter pain relievers and anti-inflammatory medications can offer temporary relief for mild cases, it’s crucial to consult a doctor if the pressure is intense or comes with additional symptoms. Your doctor can provide a proper diagnosis and recommend the most appropriate treatment plan.

Seeking professional help from an eye doctor will ensure they can pinpoint the specific cause of the pressure you’re experiencing.

It’s important to follow your doctor’s guidance and take any prescribed medications as directed. This approach offers the best opportunity to manage this potentially uncomfortable condition.