The Link Between Eye Problems and Headaches
If you’re suffering from headaches, ask yourself, “When was my last eye checkup?” A routine eye exam can turn up a variety of issues that may be causing headaches. Headaches are one of the most common complaints for adults and children. The severity and frequency of headaches varies from occasionally to almost daily. For some people, headaches can be debilitating and lead to a decreased quality of life.
Headaches have a variety of causes, including eye problems:
Eye strain. Overusing the muscles involved in vision focus can lead to eye strain and, subsequently, headaches. Any type of activity that causes you to focus your eyes for extended periods of time can lead to eye strain. A common cause of eye strain is staring at a computer or phone screen for too long. Typical symptoms of eye strain include: blurred vision, watery eyes, sensitivity to light, and headaches.
Ocular migraines. It is not clear why some people develop ocular migraines, but there appears to be a genetic link, which means if you have a family member, such as a parent with the condition, you are at an increased risk. Symptoms of ocular migraines include: seeing flashing lights, blind spots in your field of vision, eye pain, and headaches.
Astigmatism. Astigmatism occurs when the cornea is irregularly shaped. It can interfere with proper vision and may cause squinting to help focus vision. If left untreated, it can lead to headaches. Symptoms of astigmatism may include: eye irritation, problems seeing at night, distorted vision, and headaches.
Hyperopia (farsightedness)- is a common vision condition that may cause eye strain and headaches when not corrected with glasses. Frequently people may not realize they have this condition until they see the doctor for an eye exam.
Glaucoma. One type of glaucoma occurs when the pressure builds up in the eye due to an accumulation of fluid. The increased pressure causes damage to the optic nerve and can lead to vision loss over time. In the early stages of glaucoma, most people may not have symptoms. But when symptoms do develop, they may include: blurred vision, seeing halos, eye pain, and headaches.
Papilledema. Papilledema refers to swelling of the optic disc as a result of increased intracranial pressure. A number of conditions can cause this to happen including a swelling, hemorrhage or tumor in the brain. Aside from head pain, the person may experience double and blurred vision, although sometimes no symptoms develop. If a headache results, it may be more intense when coughing or sneezing and less painful when lying down.
If you’re experiencing frequent headaches, and it’s been more than a year or two between eye exams, it’s a good idea to see your eye care provider. If you already wear glasses, you may just need a new prescription. But if something else is going on, the doctor can identify the problem, and take the proper steps to have you seeing clearly and headache-free.