What is a headache?

There are more than 150 types of headache caused by various factors, either primary like migraines or tensions headaches, or secondary as a symptom of illness.
There are more than 150 types of headache caused by various factors, either primary like migraines or tensions headaches, or secondary as a symptom of illnesses.

Pain originating in any region of the face, head or neck is called headache. This pain can be dull or severe and localized to the face, skull or neck. The head is the most common site of pain in the body. Headache may sometimes be associated with nausea, vomiting or dizziness.

What are the different types of headaches?

The International Headache Society categorizes more than 150 types of headaches, and based on it headaches are classified into three main categories which include:

  • Primary headaches: Headache with no clear underlying cause is called primary headache. It may be due to overactivity or strain. Primary headaches might not be life-threatening, but may affect the quality of life. Below are few common types of primary headache:
  • Tension headaches: These occur when the muscles of the face or the scalp become tense. This may be due to physical or mental stress.
  • Migraine headaches: Migraine pain is moderate to severe and can last from four hours to three days. Multiple factors cause migraines, and they may have a hormonal origin. Migraine symptoms include sensitivity to light, noise or smell. 
  • Cluster headaches: This type of headache is rare but is the most severe type of primary headache. The pain is severe, throbbing and mostly localized to behind the eye. It may be accompanied by watery eyes and sensitivity to light. 

Secondary headaches 

Headaches due to underlying medical condition are called secondary headaches. This includes infection, severe injury, tumors, bleeding in the brain and sometimes, even life-threatening causes.  Below are few common types of secondary headache:

  • Sinus headaches: The sinus headaches are associated with infection of the sinuses. This pain is  associated with a deep and constant throbbing in cheekbones, forehead or bridge of your nose. The pain usually gets worse with sudden head movement or straining. 
  • Medication overuse headaches: These occur due to overuse over-the-counter painkillers This is among the most common type of severe headache seen in hospitals and is also called “transformed” headache. It is believed that 4% of the population worldwide has chronic daily headaches of some type — a significant subset of which are due to medication overuse.

Other headaches 

Any other headaches, facial pain and pain involving the 12 cranial nerves (nerves supplying from brain to other parts of body) are classified in this group.  

  • Trigeminal neuralgia (TN): It is the most common cause of facial pain; pain is so severe that it affects the daily life of the patient leading them to depression

What are the different causes of headaches?

Triggers for the headache are:

  • Physical stress
  • Emotional stress
  • Alcohol use
  • Skipping meals
  • Changes in sleep patterns
  • Excessive medication use
  • Illness
  • Genetics
  • Environment

How to get rid of headaches

Headaches can be usually treated at home; however secondary headaches and severe headaches should be evaluated by medical professionals to rule out underlying medical causes. Below are a few common ways to get rid of headaches. 

  • Get maximum rest
  • Drink sufficient water and stay hydrated
  • Head massage
  • Over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen can relieve the symptoms

QUESTION

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Medically Reviewed on 7/30/2020
References
Medscape Medical Reference
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