Pain around or behind the eyebrows can be due to many different causes, including headaches, infections, or conditions affecting the nerves in the face.
In this article, we look at eight possible causes of eyebrow pain, as well as the treatment options for each.
1. Trigeminal neuralgia
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Migraine, trigeminal neuralgia, and glaucoma are some possible causes of eyebrow pain.
Trigeminal neuralgia is a condition that causes sharp, intense pain in areas of the face. The trigeminal nerve connects the brain to the face, allowing a person to sense touch and changes in temperature.
Trigeminal neuralgia usually affects just one side of the face, but in rare cases, it can affect both sides.
Some people with this condition may experience a stabbing pain or pain that feels like an electric shock. Others may have a constant aching or burning sensation in the face.
Glaucoma occurs when excess fluid builds up in the front of the eye and damages the optic nerve. It can cause severe pain around the eyebrow and eye.
Other symptoms of glaucoma include:
blind spots in the vision
nausea or vomiting
seeing rainbows or halos
It is vital to receive treatment for glaucoma. Without treatment, it can cause permanent vision loss.
Migraine can cause pain around the eyebrows, eyes, and temples. A migraine episode can last from 4 hours up to several days.
Symptoms of a migraine episode can include:
intense head pain
a throbbing sensation
nausea and vomiting
increased sensitivity to light and sound
pain that increases when a person moves
Learn more about the differences between migraine and a headache here.
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4. Cluster headache
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A cluster headache may cause red, teary eyes and a runny nose.
A cluster headache is a severe headache that can reoccur between one and eight times a day and last from 15 minutes to 3 hours each time.
People may experience a stabbing pain, often either behind the eyebrow or eye or around the temples. This pain and other symptoms usually affect one side of the head.
Symptoms of a cluster headache include:
red, teary eyes
a runny or stuffy nose
a flushed or sweating face
a drooping eyelid
one smaller pupil
being unable to lie still
5. Tension headache
According to the American Migraine Foundation, tension headaches are the most common type of headache, and they can last from anywhere between 30 minutes and 7 days.
Pain may spread to the eye, eyebrow, and temple. Symptoms of a tension headache include:
mild-to-moderate pain on both sides of the head
increased sensitivity to either light or sound
tenderness in the neck muscles
Shingles is a condition that affects the nerves. It occurs in localized areas, usually on one side of the body. These areas can include the face and neck.
The symptoms of shingles include:
a very painful rash
fluid filled blisters
tingling or numb sensations
fever and chills
loss of vision
People should see their doctor immediately if they have blisters on their face, especially if they are close to the eyes.
Sinusitis is the inflammation of the nasal cavities. It can create a lot of pressure in the face, and people may feel pain around the eyebrows, nose, forehead, and cheeks.
Symptoms of sinusitis include:
a blocked or stuffy nose
thick, yellow, or green mucus from the nose
mucus that drips down the back of the throat
Sinusitis can be either acute or chronic. The symptoms of acute sinusitis usually go away within a week or 10 days. If the symptoms show no improvement with medical treatment and last longer than 12 weeks, a person may have chronic sinusitis.
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8. Giant cell arteritis
Giant cell arteritis, or temporal arteritis, is a condition affecting the blood vessels along the side of the head.
Inflammation of these blood vessels can cause pain in the face and other symptoms around the head and neck, such as:
pain in the jaw
double vision or temporary loss of vision
tenderness on the scalp
tenderness around the temples
difficulty swallowing or a sore throat
According to the Arthritis Foundation, people over the age of 50 years, particularly Caucasian women, are more likely to develop giant cell arteritis.
Treatment and home remedies
Treatment for eyebrow pain depends on the underlying cause:
Headaches and migraine episodes: Taking pain relievers, staying hydrated, and getting plenty of rest and sleep can help.
Severe or frequent migraine episodes: A doctor can prescribe medications for pain and other symptoms.
Cluster headaches: A doctor may recommend medications or an oxygen mask to prevent a cluster attack.
Shingles: Rest, a cool compress, and calamine lotion may help soothe symptoms of shingles until the infection passes. Adults over the age of 50 years can get a shingles vaccine.
Glaucoma: Taking daily eye drop medication can help prevent vision loss in people with glaucoma. Beta-blockers and alpha-agonists also work to reduce fluid buildup in the eye.
Sinusitis: People can take decongestants and nasal sprays to treat sinusitis. Pain relievers, plenty of rest, and proper hydration can also help reduce symptoms.
Trigeminal neuralgia: A doctor may prescribe medications or recommend surgery, which usually involves damaging the trigeminal nerve to stop the transmission of pain signals.
Giant cell arteritis: Corticosteroids can effectively treat the symptoms of giant cell arteritis. A longer course may be necessary to keep inflammation levels low.
When to see a doctor
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A person with eyebrow pain should talk to their doctor if they experience sudden, severe headaches, drowsiness, or nausea.
A person should see their doctor if their eyebrow pain is severe, does not go away, or occurs alongside other symptoms.
People with eyebrow pain should seek medical care straight away if they also have the following symptoms:
severe pain or swelling in the face
swelling or redness around the eyes
confusion or feeling disorientated
a sudden severe headache
nausea and vomiting
People should speak to a doctor if they have symptoms of any of the following conditions:
giant cell arteritis
severe or frequent migraine episodes
If symptoms of sinusitis carry on longer than 10 days or do not improve with treatment, a doctor can help.
People may experience pain behind or around the eyebrows for many reasons. Blocked sinuses or headaches can lead to increased pressure and pain around the eyebrows, which should pass once the cause resolves.
In other instances, eyebrow pain is due to an underlying condition, such as glaucoma.
If people have frequent or severe pain around the eyebrows or notice other symptoms, they should see a doctor.