What Is Causing The Feeling Of Pressure Behind Your Eye?

The feeling of pressure behind the eye can be a concerning symptom. To understand the potential cause, it helps to know a little about the structure of the eye — a complex organ consisting of several interconnected parts that work together to transmit visual information from the environment to the brain, says the Cleveland Clinic.

Each part of the eye plays a crucial role in the complex process of vision. At the front are the cornea, iris, and pupils, amongst others. The cornea is the clear, dome-shaped outer layer that covers the iris and pupil — it helps to focus incoming light and protect the eye from damage, according to MSD Manuals. On the other hand, the iris, which is the colored part of the eye surrounding the pupil, controls how much light enters the eye by changing the size of the pupil. 

The pupil is the dark circular opening in the center of the iris. It allows light to enter the eye and reach the lens. At the back of the eye, you'll find the retina, macula, and optic nerve, among others. The retina is made up of electrical signals transmitted to the brain through the optic nerve. The optic nerve is a bundle of nerve fibers that transmit visual information from the retina to the brain.

A problem with these structures or an underlying medical condition can cause vision problems or eye pressure.

Common causes of pressure behind the eyes

One common cause of pressure behind the eye is sinusitis, according to the Optometrists Network. Sinusitis is when the sinuses become inflamed, often due to a bacterial or viral infection. This inflammation can cause various symptoms including behind the eyes. Some common symptoms include facial pain or tenderness, nasal congestion, headache, and fever. Migraines are another potential cause of pressure behind the eye. Migraines are a type of headache that can cause intense pain and other symptoms, including inflammation in half of the face, droopy eyelids, and muscle pain in the neck and shoulder, among others.

Graves' disease is another possible cause, says Medical News Today. This autoimmune disorder causes hyperthyroidism, an overactive thyroid gland. One of Graves' disease symptoms is bulging of the eyes, which can cause pressure behind the eyes. Optic neuritis is another possible cause of pressure behind the eye. Optic neuritis is an optic nerve inflammation that can cause vision loss and pain or discomfort behind the eye. This condition can be associated with multiple sclerosis. Other possible causes of pressure in the back of the eye include injury to the face and toothache, especially when caused by an infection.

When to see a doctor

While occasional mild discomfort may not necessarily require medical attention, certain situations require prompt medical attention. Therefore, seek immediate medical attention if you experience sudden and severe pressure behind the eye, along with other symptoms, such as blurry vision, nausea, or vomiting, as per the Mayo Clinic. These symptoms may indicate a medical emergency. In some cases, pressure behind the eye may be due to more serious conditions like glaucoma — a set of eye conditions harming the optic nerve and can lead to vision loss if left untreated. One type of glaucoma called acute angle-closure glaucoma, for example, can cause sudden eye pain, as well as headaches, redness in the eye, nausea, blurry vision, and more. This type of glaucoma is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment.

A thorough medical evaluation may be necessary to determine the underlying cause. Your doctor can perform a physical exam, review your medical history, and order diagnostic tests. Early diagnosis and treatment can prevent complications and preserve your vision and overall health. In general, it is recommended that individuals receive a comprehensive eye exam every one to two years or as recommended by their eye doctor.