The Connection Between Headaches and Vision
 

The Connection Between Headaches and Vision

How vision problems can cause headaches
Read Time: 4 minutes
Mar 4, 2021

Headaches are one of the most common health complaints in both children and adults.

Headaches can cause problems beyond just the pain. If they’re bad enough, headaches can interfere with your daily life, interrupt plans, and prevent you from being social or productive. Plus, certain types of headaches can negatively affect your vision and vice versa. Certain eye conditions can also cause headaches to occur.

How Are Vision and Headaches Connected?

Headaches can affect your vision if they’re located near the eyes. Migraines can cause visible auras that can precede the pain of the headache. Additionally, headaches can be caused by eye strain or other vision problems. In ocular migraines, you can even lose vision in one eye for a period of time.

The two are connected because the eyes are part of the nervous system and strain on the eyes can cause pain just like strain or tiredness anywhere else in the body. Because the eyes are located in the head, that pain often manifests as a headache right behind the eyes.

What Types of Headaches Can Affect Vision?

While there are many different types of headaches, only some of them typically affect vision. These include migraines, ocular migraines, and cluster headaches.

Woman with headache

Migraine

A migraine is a headache that is typically intense and debilitating, although the intensity can vary. Migraines often cause nausea and sensitivity to sound or light or both. Some people who suffer from migraines experience visual auras before the pain of the migraine hits.

Ocular Migraine

An ocular migraine is often considered to be the worst type of migraine. This is because it can cause temporary vision loss in one eye. They can also cause you to see flashing lights, experience severe eye pain, or have blind spots in your vision.

What Triggers an Ocular Migraine?

The triggers for an ocular migraine differ depending on the person. These triggers can be:

  • Stress
  • Fatigue
  • Skipping a meal
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Certain foods:
    • Red wine
    • Aged cheese
    • Chocolate
    • Etc.

Cluster Headache

A cluster headache is a severe headache that, as the name suggests, occurs in clusters. This type of headache is one of the worst in terms of pain and can cause pain in the eyes. The symptoms of a cluster headache can include:

  • Pupil size changes
  • Red eyes
  • Tearing
  • Nasal drainage
  • Pain in the eyes
  • Eyelid drooping

Cluster headaches can occur in groups, multiple times a day for up to several months. Then, people who suffer from cluster headaches can go for long periods of time without experiencing any. Unfortunately, it isn’t known exactly what causes cluster headaches.

What Types of Eye Problems Can Cause Headaches?

While there are certain types of headaches that can cause eye and vision problems, there are also eye problems that can cause headaches. Most frequently, headaches can be caused by eye strain. However, there are other eye problems that can cause headaches as well.

Woman with headache

Eye Strain

Among eye problems that can cause headaches, eye strain is the most commonly occurring one. Eye strain can occur when you overuse your eye muscles by focusing for too long on something, such as a computer screen. It’s for this reason that it’s recommended to take breaks from looking at a computer screen if you have to look at one for extended periods of time for work, for study, or even just for entertainment.

Fortunately, eye strain doesn’t permanently damage your eyes. The symptoms of eye strain disappear after you rest your eyes.

What Are the Symptoms of Eye Strain?

The symptoms of eye strain can include:

  • Sore eyes
  • Water eyes
  • Dry eyes
  • Blurry vision
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Headaches
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Trouble keeping the eyes open
  • Temporary double vision
  • Pain or ache in the:
    • Neck
    • Back
    • Shoulders

What Can Cause Eye Strain?

Eye strain can be caused by anything that requires you to focus your eyes on one thing for an extended period of time, or other factors, such as:

  • Lights that are too dim
  • Lights that are too bright
  • Uncorrected vision problems
  • Continued focus on one activity, such as:
    • Reading a book
    • Driving long-distance
    • Working on a project, such as drawing or sewing
  • Looking at a digital screen for an extended period of time, which can be worsened by:
    • Poor posture
    • Too much glare from the screen
    • Poor posture
    • Holding the device at the incorrect distance
    • Low contrast on the device screen

Astigmatism

Astigmatism is when the eye’s cornea isn’t correctly shaped. This can cause:

  • Distorted vision
  • Squinting in order to see properly
  • Difficulty seeing at night
  • Eye irritation

If astigmatism isn’t treated, it can eventually lead to headaches.

Cataracts

Cataracts are cloudiness that develops in the eye, typically due to aging. The cloudiness causes the eye to work much harder in order to be able to see. That, in turn, can lead to both eye strain and headaches. The symptoms of cataracts typically include:

  • Colors fading
  • Blurry vision
  • Headaches
  • Sensitivity to light and glare

Glaucoma

Glaucoma can occur when accumulated fluid in the eye causes pressure to build up. The symptoms of glaucoma can include:

  • Eye pain
  • Blurry vision
  • Seeing halos
  • Headaches

Farsightedness

If you’re farsighted, you may have difficulty seeing things that are closer to you. This can result in headaches due to squinting and eye strain from trying to see objects close up. Treating farsightedness with appropriate glasses or contact lenses can help reduce the eye strain and therefore headaches.

How Can I Prevent Vision-Related Headaches?

If your headaches are caused by an eye condition such as cataracts, farsightedness, astigmatism, or glaucoma, you should see an eye doctor. Treating the condition should also help ease the symptoms, including headaches.

Preventing Eye Strain

If your headaches are caused by eye strain, there are some steps you can take at home, school, or work to reduce the risk of eye strain. These include:

  • Taking screen breaks from devices
  • Limiting screen time
  • Using artificial tears or other eye drops
  • Using a humidifier
  • Adjusting room lighting
  • Adjusting screen contrast
  • Adjusting screen brightness
  • Making sure to blink often
  • Adjusting the thermostat to reduce blowing air
  • Quitting smoking
  • Wearing glasses specifically designed for computer use

Preventing Computer-Related Eye Strain

For those who have to spend a lot of time on a computer for either school or work, there are some tips you can follow to reduce eye strain:

  • Check the lighting in the room
  • Adjust the computer screen’s brightness and contrast
  • Remove sources of glare
  • Blink often
  • Take eye breaks every twenty minutes (the 20-20-20 rules suggests looking at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds every 20 minutes)
  • Keep your screen about arm’s length away and at eye level

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