Headache (cont.)

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Can cluster headaches be prevented?

Since cluster headache episodes may be spaced years apart, and since the first headache of a new cluster episode can't be predicted, daily medication may not be warranted.

Lifestyle changes may help minimize the risk of a cluster headache flare. Stopping smoking and minimizing alcohol may prevent future episodes of cluster headache.

What diseases cause secondary headaches?

Headache is a symptom associated with many illnesses. While head pain itself is the issue with primary headaches, secondary headaches are due to an underlying disease or injury that needs to be diagnosed and treated. Controlling the headache symptom will need to occur at the same time that diagnostic testing is performed to identify the underlying disease. Some of the causes of secondary headache may be potentially life-threatening and deadly. Early diagnosis and treatment is essential if damage is to be limited.

The International Headache Society lists eight categories of secondary headache. A few examples in each category are noted (This is not a complete list.).

Head and neck trauma

  • Injuries to the head may cause bleeding in the spaces between the meninges, the layers of tissue that surround the brain (subdural, epidural, and subarachnoid spaces) or within the brain tissue itself (intracerebral hemorrhage: intra=within + cerebral=brain, hemorrhage=bleeding).
  • Edema or swelling within the brain, not associated with bleeding, may cause pain and a change in mental function.
  • Concussions, where head injury occurs without bleeding. Headache is one of the hallmarks of post-concussion syndrome.
  • Whiplash and neck injury also cause head pain.

Blood vessel problems in the head and neck

  • Stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA).
  • Arteriovenous malformations (AVM) when they leak.
  • Cerebral aneurysm and subarachnoid hemorrhage. An aneurysm, or a weakened area in a blood vessel wall, can expand and leak a small amount of blood causing what is called a sentinel headache. This may be a warning sign of a future catastrophic bleed into the brain.
  • Carotid artery inflammation
  • Temporal arteritis (inflammation of the temporal artery)

Non-blood vessel problems of the brain

Medications and drugs (including withdrawal from those drugs)


Changes in the body's environment

Problems with the eyes, ears, nose throat, teeth, sinuses, and neck

Psychiatric disorders

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 11/13/2015

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