Types of Headaches

An Overview

There are many different types of headaches and their causes and symptoms can vary. Although most are short-lived and rarely a cause for concern, being able to recognize which kind of headache a person is experiencing can inform them how best to treat it and whether to see a doctor. A person who has a migraine will characteristically feel an intense throbbing pain on just one side of the head. The person may experience a heightened sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. Nausea and vomiting are also common. Around a third of people experience an aura before the onset of a migraine. These are visual and sensory disturbances that typically last between 5 and 60 minutes.

Types of headaches

Many of us are familiar with some form of the throbbing, uncomfortable, and distracting pain of a headache. There are different types of headaches. This article will explain 10 different types of headaches:

Tension headaches

If you have a tension headache, you may feel a dull, aching sensation all over your head. It isn’t throbbing. Tenderness or sensitivity around your neck, forehead, scalp, or shoulder muscles also might occur. Anyone can get a tension headache, and they’re often triggered by stress. An over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever may be all it takes to relieve your occasional symptoms.

Cluster headaches

Cluster headaches are characterized by severe burning and piercing pain. They occur around or behind one eye or on one side of the face at a time. Sometimes swelling, redness, flushing, and sweating can occur on the side that’s affected by the headache. A series of cluster headaches can be daily for months at a time. In the months between clusters, individuals are symptom-free. Cluster headaches are more common in the spring and fall.
Other symptoms can include:
• watering eye
• swollen eyelid
• a blocked or a runny nose
• sensitivity to light and sound
• restlessness or agitation
Cluster headaches are usually sudden, without warning, and last between 15 minutes and 3 hours. People can experience up to eight attacks a day.

Migraine headaches

Migraine pain is an intense pulsing from deep within your head. This pain can last for days. The headache significantly limits your ability to carry out your daily routine. Migraine is throbbing and usually one-sided. Some migraine is preceded by visual disturbances. About one out of five people will experience these symptoms before the headache starts. Known as an aura, it may cause you to see:
Be aware that aura symptoms could also indicate stroke or meningitis. Anyone experiencing them for the first time should see a doctor immediately.
Migraines tend to be recurrent, and each attack may last up to 3 days. For many, it is a life-long condition.
o flashing lights
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Allergy or sinus headaches

Headaches sometimes happen as a result of an allergic reaction. The pain from these headaches is often focused in your sinus area and in the front of your head. Migraine headaches are commonly misdiagnosed as sinus headaches. In fact, up to 90 percent of “sinus headaches” are actually migraine. People who have chronic seasonal allergies or sinusitis are susceptible to these kinds of headaches.

Hormone headaches

Women commonly experience headaches that are linked to hormonal fluctuations. Menstruation, birth control pills, and pregnancy all affect your estrogen levels, which can cause a headache. Those headaches associated specifically with the menstrual cycle are also known as menstrual migraine.

Caffeine headaches

Caffeine affects blood flow to your brain. Having too much can give you a headache, as can quitting caffeine “cold turkey.” People who have frequent migraine are at risk of triggering a headache due to their caffeine use. When you’re used to exposing your brain to a certain amount of caffeine, a stimulant, each day, you might get a headache if you don’t get your caffeine fix.

Exertion headaches

Exertion headaches happen quickly after periods of intense physical activity. Weight lifting, running, and sexual intercourse are all common triggers for an exertion headache. It’s thought that these activities cause increased blood flow to your skull, which can lead to a throbbing headache on both sides of your head.

Hypertension headaches

High blood pressure can cause you to have a headache, and this kind of headache signals an emergency. This occurs when your blood pressure becomes dangerously high. A hypertension headache will usually occur on both sides of your head and is typically worse with any activity. It often has a pulsating quality. You may also experience changes in vision, numbness or tingling, nosebleeds, chest pain, or shortness of breath. These headaches normally last from 30 minutes to several hours. Severity can vary, but they rarely prevent normal activities.
The cause of tension headaches is unclear, but stress, anxiety, and depression are common triggers. Other potential triggers include:
• Dehydration
• Loud noise
• Lack of exercise
• Poor sleep
• Bad posture

Rebound headaches

Rebound headaches, also known as medication overuse headaches, can feel like a dull, tension-type headache, or they may feel more intensely painful, like a migraine. You may be more susceptible to this type of headache if you frequently use OTC pain relievers. Overuse of these medications leads to more headaches, rather than fewer.

Post-traumatic headaches

Post-traumatic headaches can develop after any type of head injury. These headaches feel like migraine or tension-type headaches, and usually last up to 6 to 12 months after your injury occurs. They can become chronic.
In some cases, a headache may require immediate medical attention. Seek immediate medical care if you’re experiencing any of the following alongside your headache:
• Stiff neck
• Rash
• The worst headache you’ve ever had
• Vomiting
• Confusion
• Slurred speech
• Any fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
• Paralysis in any part of your body or visual loss

Sinus headache

Sinus headaches are caused by sinusitis a swelling of the sinuses which is usually the result of an infection or an allergy.
• The symptoms consist of a dull, throbbing ache around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead. The pain may worsen with movement or straining and can sometimes spread to the teeth and jaw.
• These headaches are usually accompanied by a thick green or yellow nasal discharge. Other symptoms may include blocked nose, fever, nausea, and light or sound sensitivity.

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