Experiencing a headache above or behind the left eye can have a debilitating effect on your daily activities. Pain that occurs around your left eye can start off as a dull throb and gradually becomes more intense and turn into sharp stabbing pain. Along with the headache on your forehead above the left eye, you may feel pressure in your head that can make concentrating and focusing difficult.
Some types of headaches that affect the left side of your head can also cause other symptoms. For example, along with the throbbing pain, you may experience flashing lights, nausea, sensitivity to light, or a stuffy nose if blocked sinuses cause a one-sided headache.
In the majority of cases, a headache behind or above your left eye that comes and goes can be treated with simple home remedies. Applying a cold pack, massaging your left temple and forehead, or getting more rest can be enough to relieve the pain and ease the discomfort behind your left eye. In some rare cases, if you have a constant headache that isn’t relieved by natural treatment and is accompanied by other symptoms, you should see your doctor about it.
This article explores the most common causes of headaches that can occur behind the left eye and why some headaches affect your left forehead above your eye.
What Are Headaches Behind or Above the Left Eye?
The term headache is used to describe any kind of pain in your head. The pain can affect just one side of your head or it can affect both sides at the same time.
According to Dr. Benjamin Wedro on MedicineNet, the pain on your left side of your head or right side originates from irritation or inflammation in the tissues and nerves in your head. Also, muscles around your right or left eye, sinuses and ears can also be a reason for headaches if they become strained or tired.1
Dr. Wedro says that there are 3 types of headaches that can affect a person:
Primary headaches include migraines and cluster headaches that are commonly felt behind the left eye or right eye only.
Secondary headaches are those that are caused by an infection or injury. For example, a blocked sinus on the left side of your head will cause pain above or below your left eye.
Cranial neuralgia headaches are often caused by irritated or inflamed nerves and can cause facial pain and headaches on one side of your head.
Symptoms of Headaches Above Left Eye or Behind the Left Eye
Apart from a dull throbbing pain behind your left eye, one-sided headaches can also cause other symptoms. Dr. Wedro on MedicineNet says that headaches can also cause squeezing, incessant, or intermittent stabbing pains on one part of the face or the whole head. If the headache around your left forehead is caused by a migraine, you may also have nausea and vomiting.
Some people find that they experience pain above the left eye after exercising, when they are more tired, or an excruciating headache may come on without any warning. Headaches can also be chronic, meaning that you may suffer from frequent headaches ranging from mild pain to unrelenting throbbing pain on the affected side of your head.
Headache Above or Behind the Left Eye – Main Causes
Many people experience a headache above or behind their left eye at some point in their lives. In fact, headaches are one of the most common types of body pain that we have. Here are some of the possible reasons why you can experience headaches above your left eye.
Tension headaches above or behind the eye
From all the headaches that can affect one side of your head, tension headaches are the most common. The pain with a tension headache usually starts at the back of your head and can then spreads to other areas of your head.
According to Dr. Wedro on MedicineNet, tension headaches often end up causing intense pressure at one of your temples just above your eye. The headache over your left eye may not have a debilitating effect, but it can interfere with your daily activities.1
It is thought that stress causes inflammation and pain in the muscles that cover the skull. The stress can be physical or emotional and it causes spasms in the muscles that can cause dull to severe pain.
Migraines are among the most common types of headaches that you can get behind your left eye. Of course, migraines can also affect your right eye, however, they usually just affect one side of your head at a time.
According to Dr. Anne Poinier on WebMD, migraines are more than just severe headaches that affect one side of your head. Migraines cause throbbing pain behind your left eye or right eye. Migraines are often preceded by seeing spots or flashing lights and you may have a numb feeling on the affected side of your face.2
Some triggers of migraines include feeling hungry, stress, poor sleeping habits, red wine, or strong odors.
Another type of migraine that can also cause vision problems in the affected eye is an ocular migraine. Dr. Brian Wachler on WebMD says that ocular migraines can cause temporary vision loss in your left eye or right eye along with severe throbbing pain.3
Cluster headaches can cause pain over your left eye and can happen in groups. So, a cluster headache could cause constant sharp pains behind your left eye 2 or 3 times a day for a few weeks or months and then disappear for many months.
According to Dr. Neil Lava from the Emory University in Atlanta, cluster headaches can also affect your facial muscles. You may find that as well as pain around your left eye, your eyelid droops and becomes watery and red. You may also have a runny nose on the left side nostril.4
Physical activity can also be to blame for a headache above your left eye. Usually, bouts of strenuous physical exercise will bring on a headache in different areas of the head.
Dr. Mary Lowth on Patient.info says that even something as simple as coughing or straining with a bowel movement can be enough to bring on an exertional headache. Dr. Lowth says that these kinds of headaches tend to be felt behind the eyes and at the back of the head and last about 20 minutes.5
A blocked left sinus can cause a buildup of pressure in the area under your eye on that side of your face and cause a headache behind your left eye. Usually, you can tell the difference between a sinus headache and other types of headaches because you will have a stuffy nose, cough, and sore throat.
According to physician Dr. Carol DerSarkissian, clogged sinuses will cause head pain that is severe around the forehead and behind the eyes. You may also find that the affected areas are tender to touch and may get worse when you move or bend over.6
If a sinus infection is giving you a headache behind one or both of your eyes, then please read my article on how to relieve a sinus infection naturally for some great home remedies. Sinus headaches can also be caused by seasonal allergies or other types of allergies. If that is the case, you can try one of my natural antihistamine recipes to relieve your allergy symptoms or these essential oils for allergy relief.
Eye strain is another common cause of suffering from recurrent headaches behind the left eye. Eyestrain can happen for a number of reasons and is common among workers who have to concentrate on computer screens or drive for long periods of time. Strong sunlight, being overly tired, or having an eye problem can also lead to eye strain.
Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that having to strain your eyes for long periods of time can lead to headaches and problems with your eyes. For example, along with a headache, your eyes may become sore and irritated and you may have difficulty keeping your eyes open.7
To prevent headaches behind one or both of your eyes caused by eyestrain, you should take breaks when doing close work or concentrating at a computer screen. If you still have eye strain, you should get your eyes checked to make sure that vision problems aren’t to blame for eyestrain.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a chronic condition that can cause pain on only one side of your face. The pain happens when one or more of the cranial nerves in your face get trapped or damaged. If nerves around your left eye are affected, then you may have sharp shooting pains behind the left eye.
Dr. Mary Lowth on Patient.info says that the pain trigeminal neuralgia causes can feel like short electric shocks around the eyes, nose, forehead, or scalp. This usually just affects one side of your face.5 Assistant Clinical Professor of Medicine Dr. David Kiefer says that the brief shooting pains on the left side of your face or right side may be brief and be triggered by something touching or pressing that side of your face.8
Although trauma to your left eye will result in pain around the eye area, trauma to your head can cause other types of headaches after the initial trauma has healed.
The journal Current Pain and Headache Reports states that post-traumatic headaches are common after head injuries. This can cause cluster headaches even weeks after the injury.9 These cluster headaches can affect just one side of the head and are often a reason for headaches above the left eye.
Glaucoma is a degenerative condition of the eye and can cause eye pain in the affected eye. The symptoms of glaucoma can come on gradually, and if not treated properly, can lead to eventual blindness.
The type of glaucoma that can cause headaches behind one or both eyes is acute angle-closure glaucoma. Doctors from the Mayo Clinic say that the symptoms of this kind of glaucoma are severe headaches with pain in the eye, blurred vision, and halos around lights.
If you experience a sharp headache behind one of your eyes along with nausea, vomiting, and vision problems, you should see your doctor immediately.10
Giant cell arteritis
Inflammation in the arteries in your head and neck can cause aching pains around one or both of your temples. Very often, the pain around one or both eyes can come on suddenly and the area can also feel tender to touch.
Doctors from the National Health Service say that the type of headache pain associated with giant cell arteritis can be excruciating. It is estimated that about two-thirds of people experience sudden pain at the front or side of their head and painkillers usually are ineffective at easing the pain.11
Other Causes of Headaches Behind the Left Eye
There are some other causes of headaches behind the left eye that are more serious. However, these causes are quite rare and will always be accompanied by other symptoms.
In rare cases, a brain tumor can cause a chronic headache that won’t go away. Depending on where the tumor is and if it is pressing on nerves or tissue, you may have a constant headache behind one of your eyes. However, Dr. Charles Davis on MedicineNet says that frequent headaches will be accompanied with serious symptoms like seizures, mood changes, problems keeping balance, or changes in speech, hearing or vision.12
Another uncommon condition that can cause a headache behind one eye is a brain infection like meningitis or encephalitis. These conditions cause inflammation in the tissue surrounding the brain and can cause severe headaches and a stiff neck along with vomiting and confusion. Dr. Igor Boyarsky on eMedicineHealth says that doctors will usually carry out an eye exam to see if there is any swelling on the main nerve behind the eye.13
A rare cause of pain behind one eye is an aneurysm. An aneurysm is when a blood vessel in the brain breaks open and pushes on part of the brain. Although an aneurysm can cause right or left eye pain, Dr. Amit Shelat on MedlinePlus says that other symptoms include double vision or complete loss of vision, neck pain, a stiff neck, and ringing in the ears. There may also be more serious symptoms, like muscle weakness or seizures.14
How to Get Relief from Headaches Behind and Above the Left Eye
Usually, you can get quick relief from a headache behind or above the left eye using some simple home remedies. These remedies help to reduce any inflammation and irritation in the head and help reduce the pain of a headache behind one or both of your eyes.
A cold pack placed on the affected temple or forehead can help to relieve most headaches. The cold helps to reduce blood flow to the affected part of your head and also help to calm the nerves that may be irritated.
According to the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, studies have shown that cold therapy is very effective at relieving head pain caused by migraines. It was found that cold packs placed on the eyes or forehead helped to relieve migraine symptoms. With other people, cold therapy helped to boost the effectiveness of analgesics.15
How to use:
For quick and easy relief from any kind of headache behind or above your left eye, this is how to use a cold pack:
Dip a washcloth in cold water and squeeze out the excess.
Place the cold compress on your left eye and leave for 15-20 minutes to help relieve the pain around the eye.
Every so often, dip the washcloth in cold water to keep the compress cool and to help speed up pain relief.
Use Essential Oils
Many essential oils have pain relieving properties and can help get rid of a headache quickly. Certain essential oils also help calm the nerves which can promote pain relief if you suffer from tension headaches, migraines, or stress-related sore head.
The journal European Neurology reported that lavender oil has proved to be effective in relieving headache pain quickly from migraine sufferers.16 Also, the journal Phytomedicine published information on research showing that peppermint oil and eucalyptus oil help to induce a cooling effect on the temples and relieve headache pain.17
How to use:
You can easily make your own headache remedy to relieve migraines, trigeminal neuralgia, sinus headaches and other types of headaches. This is what you should do:
Add 10 to 12 drops of essential oil to 1 oz. of carrier oil such as jojoba oil, olive oil, sweet almond oil or avocado oil.
Gently massage the natural headache remedy to both of your temples and the back of your neck.
Repeat 2-3 times a day when you suffer from a headache to help relieve tension and ease headache pain above or behind the eye.
There are many other essential oils with properties that relieve headaches. These include chamomile, basil, clove oil, ginger essential oil, and frankincense.
Reduce stress to relieve headaches from behind left eye
Relieving stress is an important way to prevent various types of headaches. Stress is known to cause tension and exertional headaches in people and can also aggravate headaches if you are prone to migraines and trigeminal neuralgia.
In my article about the best natural stress-relieving remedies, you can read how ginger, St John’s Wort, and chamomile can reduce stress which in turn can help you get rid of headaches caused by stress.
Get enough sleep
Making sure you get enough sleep every night may be just what you need to get rid of a recurring headache behind your left eye. Sleep is an important way to help your body relax and look after your physical health in general. However, for people who suffer from cluster headaches, frequent migraines or other types of headaches, sleep is even more important.
According to the journal Headaches, good sleep patterns have been shown to help reduce the frequency of migraines and also lessen their intensity if they do happen. Other research has shown that a reason for waking up with a migraine is because of bad sleep patterns.18
To help improve your sleeping habits and prevent recurring headaches and migraines, you can try using this natural substance. You can also try these herbs for insomnia, these foods for better sleep or these essential oils.
Massage therapy to treat headaches above left eye
Another way to relieve dull throbbing pains behind your left eye caused by migraines or headaches is to massage your temples and neck. This can help to relieve tension under your scalp and give instant relief from headache pain.
According to the American Journal of Public Health, massage therapy can effectively relieve chronic tension headaches and prevent them from recurring. It was found that during the therapy, the duration and intensity of tension headaches decreased significantly.19
How to Prevent Headaches Above or Behind Left Eye
There are some ways to help prevent headaches and reduce the frequency that migraines occur. You can try some of these ways to see if they can help prevent headaches behind your eyes:
Avoid excessive coffee intake as this is known to trigger migraines in some people.
Keep to a regular sleeping schedule and try to wake up at the same time every day.
Keep yourself fit with regular exercise – try to exercise at least 30 minutes 3 times a week.
Take regular breaks and flex your shoulders and neck if you have to sit for long periods of time.
When to See a Doctor
The majority of headaches are not symptoms of serious conditions. Usually, the only serious side effect of an intense headache behind your left eye is the pain, discomfort, and irritation that it causes.
However, chronic headaches or acute headaches that come on suddenly and are accompanied by other symptoms can be a cause for concern. According to researchers from Harvard Medical School, you should see a doctor for your headache symptoms if you experience any of the following:20
You notice a major change in the type or pattern of headache you experience.
You have a very severe headache.
The headache pain gets steadily worse or causes sharp stabbing when you cough or move.
You or other person notice changes in your speech or cognitive abilities.
A throbbing headache is accompanied with a stiff neck, slurred speech, weakness, or seizures.
A severe headache interferes with your daily activities.
You get headaches after a severe blow to your head.