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Are your headaches related to vision?

By Zack Steele

One of the most common complaints I see in the office is headaches. People often think that their eyes are the cause of their headaches. Many times this is the case, but there are often other factors and problems that can lead to headaches as well. This can make finding the problem frustrating for the doctor and patient.

When a patient comes in with headaches, we try to determine most importantly when, how often they occur and how severe the headaches seem to the patient. Most of the time, the headaches come on after a long day at work or school. When this occurs, we look for a vision problem that may solve the problem. Farsightedness and astigmatism are usually the culprits, especially in those patients over the age of 40. Less commonly, the problem may be a binocular vision disorder in which the two eyes are not working well together.

If patients complain of severe headaches that interrupt sleep or are still there when they wake up in the morning, then we must consider more severe problems like poorly controlled blood pressure or increased intracranial pressure that can be a sign of catastrophic problems such as a brain tumor. A dilated exam is a must for these patients to determine if something severe is happening.

Though the previous conditions are rare, they still can occur. To any patient who complains of headaches, I always suggest a dilated evaluation to find the problem and deal with it whether it’s simple or complex. Many times even after an exam, the cause of the headache still may remain a mystery because environmental factors and stress are often the causes of headaches. As I mentioned, this is often frustrating for the patient.

The important thing to remember about a headache is to try and pinpoint when and how often it occurs. If the problem lasts for several days, try to determine at what point during the day it is most severe. That can help your doctor in diagnosing your problem.

Many people suffer from headaches every day, but often this problem can be avoided. If you are one of those people, consult your eye care professional.

Dr. Zack Steele is a 2003 graduate of UAB School of Optometry. His practice, Trussville Vision Care, is located on Chalkville Road in downtown Trussville.

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