Neuroimaging in the Diagnostic Evaluation of Eye Pain

Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2016 Sep;20(9):52. doi: 10.1007/s11916-016-0582-8.


Ocular or eye pain is a frequent complaint encountered not only by eye care providers but neurologists. Isolated eye pain is non-specific and non-localizing; therefore, it poses significant differential diagnostic problems. A wide range of neurologic and ophthalmic disorders may cause pain in, around, or behind the eye. These include ocular and orbital diseases and primary and secondary headaches. In patients presenting with an isolated and chronic eye pain, neuroimaging is usually normal. However, at the beginning of a disease process or in low-grade disease, the eye may appear "quiet," misleading a provider lacking familiarity with underlying disorders and high index of clinical suspicion. Delayed diagnosis of some neuro-ophthalmic causes of eye pain could result in significant neurologic and ophthalmic morbidity, conceivably even mortality. This article reviews some recent advances in imaging of the eye, the orbit, and the brain, as well as research in which neuroimaging has advanced the discovery of the underlying pathophysiology and the complex differential diagnosis of eye pain.

Keywords: CT; Eye pain; MRI; Neuroimaging; Retro-orbital headache; Secondary ocular pain.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Eye Pain / diagnosis*
  • Eye Pain / etiology
  • Humans
  • Neuroimaging / methods*
  • Neuroimaging / trends