Headaches are such a common symptom in our society that, at least once in our lifetime, 90% of men and 99% of women are affected by them. Although in most cases the majority of these headaches are benign in character, occasionally our ophthalmologist may detect that they are the result of an eye disease. By studying the fundus of the eye, they may even be able to diagnose an increase in intracranial pressure caused by a brain tumor.

What are headaches ?

A headache is defined as a constant or pulsating pain in the region of the cranial vault.They can be localized in the frontal area, at the back of the head or they can affect one entire half of the cranium.

What are the causes ?

Headaches are produced by factors which cause some type of tension in the muscular tissue or the blood vessels in the head or neck ( stress, eating or drinking to excess, sleeping too much, or not enough ). But when headaches occur frequently, or with patients who previously have not suffered from them, or when they are accompanied by other symptoms such as vomiting, loss of clear-headedness or muscle paralysis, they may be due to arterial hypertension or even an intracranial tumor.

What is the relation between headaches and eyesight ?

Possibly, headaches which come on after carrying out work using our near vision are the most frequent reason that patients consult their ophthalmologist and in many cases these are due to hyperopia which has been partially corrected or not corrected at all. However, when the headache is very intense and is accompanied by blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, the cause could be a sudden increase in ocular pressure or acute glaucoma. The ophthalmologist is also able to detect, by examining the fundus of the eye, an increase in intracranial pressure provoked by a cerebral tumor or signs of arterial hypertension although the patient is unaware that they have this condition.

Why do visual symptoms sometimes appear before the onset of a headache ?

In some cases, the reason for the headache is vascular in origin, in which case we are dealing with migraine. The patient will often complain of a darkening or loss of visual field, double vision or light phenomena which precede the migraine episode and disappear as the headache begins.

What is the most effective treatment for headaches ?

Relaxing the shoulders and neck by massaging them, having a warm bath, applying hot and cold compresses, drinking fruit juices or other non-alcoholic beverages, taking a mild analgesic and whenever possible, sleeping for several hours. However, when the headache is very strong, episodic or has accompanying symptoms it is advisable to consult your ophthalmologist, who will be able to establish the differential diagnosis between more serious diseases, whether they be ocular, vascular or neurological.