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  • Updated 12.02.2023
  • Released 02.14.2002
  • Expires For CME 12.02.2026

Eye-related headache



Because headache may be accompanied by pain in the eye or visual symptoms, it is often attributed to ocular disease. However, if the sclerae are white and noninjected, ocular disease is rarely the cause of significant headache. Conjunctival injection, corneal edema, abnormal pupils, and decreased vision are some of the most common signs. Clinicians other than ophthalmologists should be familiar with the symptoms and signs of ocular diseases, such as infection, inflammatory disorders, and glaucoma, that cause headache. This article covers important ocular causes of headache, including updates on the link between glaucoma and headache, trochlear headache, and the relationship between SARS-CoV-2 infection/COVID eye pain and headache. The ocular presentations of primary headache, such as photophobia, blurred vision, tearing, ptosis, or ocular pain, are also examined.

Key points

• Eye pain is more likely related to ocular disease, such as glaucoma, when the eye is injected, edematous, or pupils are abnormal.

• Patients with vision loss, ophthalmoparesis, or progressive symptoms usually require urgent neuroimaging or referral.

• Pituitary apoplexy is a neurologic emergency presenting with severe headache, vision loss, ophthalmoparesis, or delirium.

• Ocular symptoms such as visual aura, blurry vision, or photophobia are common in patients with primary headache disorders such as migraine.

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