Some people experience headaches that affect their vision. While the headache is not directly related to a vision problem, it can still cause pain around the eyes. In addition, a headache can be an indication that your vision is changing and you need new glasses or contact lenses.
Read on to learn more about the link between vision and headaches.
Existing vision problems, such as nearsightedness or farsightedness, can cause eye strain. Those suffering from these conditions can experience eye discomfort and, in some cases, headaches. Fatigue is the usual cause of eye strain. It occurs when you use your eyes for long periods of time. You can get eye strain from too much screen time, reading or other close-range work like sewing. Any kind of task that involves focusing your eyes for a long time may trigger a headache.
If you’ve been experiencing recurrent headaches lately, you should visit an eye specialist for a checkup. You may need eyeglasses or an updated prescription. Discomfort caused by eyestrain can be relieved with the right lenses or through vision correction.
Cluster headaches can cause severe pain and occur in clusters. These severe headaches commonly cause pain around the eyes, which can spread down the neck and shoulders. Other symptoms include nasal drainage, tearing, droopy eyelids, red eyes and changes in pupil size. These headaches may occur every day for several months and then may stop for a long time.
Monocular and Borderline Binocular Vision
Around five percent of people in the U.S. have monocular vision, meaning they can only see through one of their eyes. Another quarter of the American population has borderline binocular vision, which occurs when the eyes are misaligned.
Both monocular and borderline binocular vision can cause problems with depth perception. Those with binocular vision may experience headaches of nausea when watching a 3D movie. Fortunately, eye doctors specializing in binocular vision therapy can help improve coordination between your eyes.
The cornea has many nerves and is extremely sensitive. A tiny speck of dirt can cause you to experience severe eye pain. Anything that touches the front surface of the cornea can be painful. A scratched cornea can result in severe pain and redness of the eye. Degenerative cornea and eye infections can also cause eye pain, redness, swelling and photophobia or light sensitivity.
Dry eye is another cause of corneal pain. The cornea needs to be constantly lubricated with a film of tears produced by the glands near the eye. When there aren’t enough tears and the front of the cornea is directly exposed to air, you’ll experience pain. This eye condition can also be caused by certain medications, medical disorders, systemic lupus or a dry environment.
The most common type of glaucoma is open-angle glaucoma, which is usually painless. However, angle closure glaucoma can cause eye pain, blurred vision and a bulging, firm, red eye. In this rare type of glaucoma, the eye pressure increases rapidly. This can be triggered by going from a dark into a bright environment. Future attacks can be prevented with a simple laser procedure.
Giant Cell Arteritis
Also called temporal arteritis, giant cell arteritis usually affects people who are over the age of 65. When left undetected, this condition can lead to permanent blindness. There is no known cause but the underlying problem is blood inflammation that hinders blood flow.
In some cases, sudden vision loss is the first symptom of temporal arteritis. This vision loss is painless and typically develops in one eye. However, it can also quickly affect the other eye when not addressed promptly. Other symptoms of this eye condition include headaches, pain or weakness of the jaw while chewing, tenderness of the scalp, weight loss, appetite loss, night sweats, muscle soreness and depression.
Sometimes, the arteries in the temples and forehead look prominent and are tender to touch. To determine if a patient has giant cell arteritis, they must undergo blood tests and biopsy of the artery under the skin of the temple. The inflammation can be treated with corticosteroids. Early detection and treatment are essential, as once visual loss occurs, it doesn’t usually improve.
Optic Nerve Conditions
During an eye exam, your doctor will check the inside of your eyes and examine your optic nerve to check for signs of swelling, which can occur due to high intra-ocular pressure. The optic nerve can also swell due to a brain tumor, which may result in double vision.
Pseudotumor cerebri or idiopathic intracranial hypertension is a disorder that causes high pressure in the brain even without a tumor. It mostly affects young people, with overweight women at a higher risk. It triggers headaches that are felt in or behind the eyes. Suffers may experience temporary vision loss, blurred vision, double vision or a whooshing sound in the ears. Your physician may use an instrument called ophthalmoscope to check for optic nerve swelling.
Migraine and Visual Disturbance
Between 25 to 30 percent of people with migraines experience visual aura symptoms. It can be difficult to distinguish whether the visual symptoms are related to migraine or caused by a more concerning problem. Visual disturbances of migraine typically last for 10 to 30 minutes. Sometimes, they only last for seconds. These disturbances may or may not be associated with a headache. Others only experience visual symptoms without headaches. Visual symptoms may occur before or during the headache.
The patterns or character of migraine may change throughout the years as well as visual symptoms. Headaches can become less severe or even go away, but visual aura may still persist. Some only experience migraine-related visual symptoms when they reach the age of 50 or later.
Ocular migraines don’t only cause pain but also vision loss in one eye. Sometimes, sufferers experience flashing lights, blind spots and severe eye pain besides migraine symptoms. However, the eye discomfort doesn’t last as long.
You should consult your eye doctor if you experience blind spots that don’t go away after 30 minutes. Those who have ocular migraines may be at an increased risk of permanent vision loss. This is because they are linked to blood vessels and nerves at the back of the eye.
Shingles or herpes zoster can cause headaches, changes in vision and severe pain around the head and eyes. This is the reactivation of the chickenpox virus and only affects one side of the body. Headaches will usually occur before painful skin blisters develop.
You will need immediate medical attention and antiviral medication if you develop herpes zoster around the eyes. Early treatment can help prevent damage to the eyes and ocular nerves. Complications of this condition include glaucoma, corneal clouding and optic nerve atrophy.