Types of Headaches

Oct 24, 2022

Types of Head aches There is no one who has not experienced a headache at some time or another. The occasional headache can be treated with rest and an analgesic. However, the causes and severity of the condition vary greatly from person to person and what may cause a severe headache in one person may leave another completely unaffected. There are many types of headaches and knowing what kind you suffer from will enable you to deal with the problem effectively or, if required, consult a doctor for treatment.

Medical science has defined over 150 different types of headaches but they can be categorized as being either primary or secondary headaches. Understanding the type of headache you suffer from is the first step in obtaining effective treatment.

Primary Headaches

These are headaches in which the pain in the head is the condition itself and is not triggered by a condition affecting another part of the body such as a sickness or an allergy. Primary headaches can be divided into 2 types. Episodic headaches are those that occur at fairly regular intervals but not more than once or twice a month. Chronic headaches are those that occur multiple times a month with a short interval between the attacks.

  • Tension Headaches: As the name implies, these are brought on by mental stress, tension and anxiety. These are the most common among teenagers and adults. These headaches normally fade away once the tension or stress is reduced and the patient has had some rest. Analgesic tablets are often helpful in controlling the pain.
  • Cluster Headaches: These produce severe burning sensation or piercing pain behind one eye or mainly affect one side of the face.They are called cluster headaches because they often happen in groups with attacks occurring 2 or 3 times a day for a few weeks or months. The pain typically lasts for up to 3 hours. The attackscan stop suddenly and then restart after an interval of months or even years.
  • Post traumatic Headaches: These occur after a head injury, even a minor one. Typically, they will start a few days after the injury occurs. The pain is often accompanied by vertigo, light-headedness, difficulty concentrating, etc. The pain usually fades away as the injury heals.
  • Ice Pick Headaches: These are short attacks of stabbing pain in the head that last only a few seconds.
  • Thunderclap Headaches: Theseare attacks of very severe pain that come on suddenly and without warning.They reach peak intensity in just a minute or two. The pain can move around to different parts of the head.
  • Hemicrania Continua: This is a moderate pain that is focused on one side of the head and lasts for a few months. The severity of the pain can fluctuate during the course of the day.
  • New Daily Persistent Headaches (NDPH): These can start without warning and continue, with varying degrees of intensity, for months at a time. The cause is still uncertain but it is thought that they occur after an infection, surgery or a stressful event.
  • Migraine Headaches: These are extremely painful and those who suffer from them are often incapacitated until the headache passes. The pounding and throbbing pain can last for several days and occur frequently, up to several times a month. The pain is often accompanied by extreme light and sound sensitivity. Nausea and vomiting are also often present. Many factors can trigger a migraine attack. Among the most common are:​
    • Flashing lights
    • Inadequate sleep
    • Hunger
    • Dehydration
    • Hormonal fluctuations
    • Exposure to chemicals
    • Sensitivity to certain foods

Secondary Headaches

These are symptoms of a medical condition affecting another part of the body. Treatment involves diagnosing the primary health issue and treating it. This usually causes the headache to fade away as the primary condition is treated.

  • Sinus Headaches: These produce a deep and constant pain that is focused under the cheekbones, the bridge of the nose or the forehead. These occur due to inflammation of the sinus cavities and are usually accompanied by fever, a runny nose, blocking of the ears and facial swelling. These are common problems for those with chronic allergies or for those who have been diagnosed with sinusitis. A complication with these headaches is that they are easily mistaken as migraine attacks and the wrong treatment or medication is used.
  • Hormone Headaches: Many women suffer from headaches caused by hormonal fluctuations. Menstruation and birth control methods can be causative factors. If the headaches are specifically associated with the menstrual cycle (they occurjust before the period starts, during the period or just after it is over) they are called menstrual headaches.
  • Caffeine Headaches: Caffeine affects the flow of blood to the brain and consuming too much can bring on a headache. Additionally, when a person consumes an excessive amount of caffeine regularly and then suddenly stops, the denial of the stimulant to the brain can also cause headaches.
  • Rebound Headaches: These are caused by the overuse of over-the-counter medications. Stopping the intake or consulting a doctor for alternative treatments will often relieve the problem.
  • Exertion Headaches: These occur after an intense period of physical activity such as running, weightlifting and even sexual intercourse. It is thought that the high heart rate during periods of activity causesa higher blood flow to the brain which leads to headaches.
  • Hypertension Headache: High blood pressure can cause severe headache. The higher the pressure, the more intense the pain. These are usually medical emergencies and need immediate treatment.

These are just a few of the most common types of headaches. There are many more a person may suffer from, either on a regular basis or intermittently.

Headaches are a common occurrence and are normally not a cause for concern. However, if they happen frequently, have started after an injury or are so severe as to affect your ability to carry out your normal daily tasks, then a medical check-up is advisable. Because headaches come in so many forms and have so many causes, the best option is to go to a multispecialty hospital where there will be a full range of specialists and diagnostic technology available to ensure that you receive the correct diagnosis and where the best treatment will be provided.

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