Is My Headache Caused by Vision Problems?

Image of a woman with a headache.

Everyone experiences headaches sometimes, but how do you know if the pain is being caused by a vision issue? As it turns out, headaches are seldom caused primarily by poor vision, but eye strain or blurred vision can worsen an existing headache. For patients who aren't sure whether their eyesight is contributing to their painful symptoms, an evaluation by an optometrist can help troubleshoot the problem. While some cases are resolved in an optometry office, others may require medical testing to identify the root cause.

The Origin of Headaches

Most headaches originate from one of three sources: tension, vascular issues such as migraines, or other disease processes. Problems with the eyes cause only a small percentage of headaches; in these cases, these subtle shifts can lead to eyestrain, which in turn creates the headache. No matter what caused the original headache, lengthy, intense use of the eyes usually exacerbates the pain.

Is Your Headache Visual or Non-Visual?

Visual headaches can occur at any age and generally:

* Are felt in the front part of the head
* Do not start until the middle or the end of the day
* Are not felt when you first wake up
* Follow a different pattern on the weekends, if they occur at all
* Are not associated with visual auras or flashing lights

If your headache does not fit these descriptions, then it probably isn't a visual origin headache, although tired vision could be making your headache more severe. Of course, no diagnosis can be made without a visit to your optometrist.

What Causes Visual Origin Headaches?

Vision headaches are most frequently caused by vision problems and eye diseases such as:

* Nearsightedness or farsightedness
* Astigmatism
* Presbyopia
* Unequal muscle balance between the eyes
* Misaligned eyes
* Angle closure glaucoma
* Herpes zoster virus (Shingles)
* Anterior uveitis

Potential Cures for Vision-Related Headaches

Depending on the root of the problem, vision origin headaches can be relieved by a new prescription, switching to anti-reflective lenses, taking frequent breaks, adjusting light sources, and improving your workstation ergonomics.

A Note of Caution

If you experience a headache accompanied by new vision problems, then it's best to see your doctor right away for an evaluation. Sometimes, vision problems that only occur with a headache could indicate a migraine or a serious health problem, such as seizures or head trauma.

Most headaches are harmless in the long run, but if you're in doubt, consult a qualified professional.


Healthy Children (2012). Teenagers and Headaches: When It's Cause for Concern.

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