A headache is one of the common discomforts experienced by most people. A headache can occur only in a certain part of the head or any one or both sides of the head. Headaches can also spread from one point of the head and spread all over the head with a vise-like grip. In some cases, the pain can spread to the facial regions as well. Often headache occurs spontaneously. Headaches can also occur due to a specific activity or an exercise. Most people experience headaches as acute episodes. If it is chronic, this can indicate an underlying medical condition.
Acute headaches are not caused due to any reason. Such headaches are categorized as primary. In case a person experiences a headache due to another medical condition, it is known as a secondary headache. Beside these two broad categories, there are nearly 150 types of headaches. Here are some common types of headaches and their causes.
- Primary headaches: These types of headaches are caused due to the strain on pain-sensitive parts of the head. Primary headaches are also caused due to overactivity. This is a standalone type of illness that can occur due to chemical activity changes in the brain and also due to pressure on nerves, blood vessels, and muscles of the neck and head.
- Secondary headaches: These types of headaches are caused by the stimulation of brain nerves sensitive to pain. The nerves are stimulated by another medical condition. Second headaches are often symptoms of another illness. Some common reasons for secondary headaches include alcohol-induced hangover, brain tumor, blood clots, bleeding around the brain, eating something cold, dehydration, inhaling carbon monoxide fumes, concussion, influenza, glaucoma, panic attack, and stroke.
- Stress–related headaches: Stress-related headaches are quite common. These types of headaches are experienced by a lot of people very frequently. Such headaches usually start slowly. They begin from the middle of the day and may aggravate as the day progresses. Stress-related headaches can spread from the neck or even extend to the neck. The person will experience a constant, dull pain on both sides of the head. Such headaches can be chronic or occur in short episodes that may last for a day or a few hours. Chronic headaches may last for around 15 days to 3 months.
- Migraines: A migraine headache occurs for a few hours and can last for two to three days. These types of a headache often affect the quality of life of the person and also affects their daily productivity. Such headaches occur on one side of the head. The person experiences a throbbing, pulsating pain. A headache causes other symptoms as well. These include the light-headedness, blurred vision, sensory disturbances, and nausea.
- Cluster headaches: These types of headaches occur in periods of once or eight times every day. These periodic headaches may last for around 15 minutes to 3 hours. People usually experience periods of headaches for a week and even months. There will be a headache-free period which may last for months or years, and the person will not experience any symptoms during this period. The area where the pain occurs becomes swollen and red. The pain is usually one-sided. It is often severe and causes a burning or sharp sensation. Cluster headaches occur in or around one eye. The eyelids may start drooping, and the nasal cavity on the side of a headache will feel runny and stuffy.
- Rebound headaches: Also known as medication-overuse headaches, cluster headaches are caused due to over-consumption of headache medications. These types of headaches start at the beginning of the day and persist for the entire day. Over-the-counter medications may provide relief from the pain, but the pain becomes worse as the effect of the medication goes away. The intensity of pain may vary from day-to-day. Rebound headaches may cause other symptoms such as low quality of sleep, restlessness, neck pain, and nasal congestion.
- Thunderclap headaches: These types of headaches occur suddenly and can last for more than 5 minutes. These headaches are quite severe, and their intensity increases within a minute or two. Thunderclap headaches are often symptomatic of ruptured or unruptured aneurysms, cerebral venous thrombosis, intracerebral hemorrhage, reversible cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome (RVS), pituitary apoplexy, and meningitis. If such headaches are frequently experienced within a short duration, it is essential to consult a doctor immediately.
- Hormone headaches: Women are at a higher risk of hormone headaches. These types of headaches are caused due to change in hormone levels during menopause, menstruation, and pregnancy. Taking birth control pills may also cause a change in hormone levels, thereby leading to these type of headaches.