Four Types of Headache: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Primary headaches are a common type of headache that can be caused by a variety of factors, including stress, depression, anxiety, and muscle tension. Migraines, tension headaches, cluster headaches, and new persistent daily headaches are the most common types of primary headaches. Symptoms of primary headaches can range from mild to severe and can last anywhere from 2 to 10 days. Secondary headaches are usually caused by an underlying medical condition and can be more severe than primary headaches.

Cluster headaches are so called because they tend to recur over a period of several weeks. Occipital neuralgia is a relatively rare type of primary headache that can occur when the occipital nerves that run from the top of the spinal cord at the base of the neck to the scalp become inflamed or irritated. Tension headaches are usually caused by tight muscles in the shoulders, neck, scalp or jaw and are usually related to stress, depression, anxiety, or keeping the head in one position for too long. Women are twice as likely to have tension headaches as men.

Migraine headaches present moderate to severe pain that is pulsating, throbbing, or pulsating in nature and may involve changes in vision, sensitivity to sound or light, nausea, and loss of appetite. Cluster headaches present an intensely sharp pain located behind one eye or in the eye region. Chronic daily headaches are persistent and ongoing, occurring every day for at least three months. In most cases, you will need to prescribe medication to control the condition and make symptoms more bearable.

A doctor may prescribe medicines, such as antiemetics, to help relieve these symptoms and control nausea and vomiting. A high caffeine intake of more than 400 milligrams (mg) or about 4 cups of coffee per day can sometimes cause headaches. In people who consume more than 200 mg of caffeine a day for more than 2 weeks, withdrawal can cause migraine-like headaches. However, repeated attacks or certain types of headaches may indicate a more serious health condition. You may be more susceptible to this type of headache if you use over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers often.

The International Headache Society has established a comprehensive classification that includes more than 150 categories of headache.

Debora Lehneis
Debora Lehneis

Award-winning food advocate. Subtly charming bacon practitioner. Alcohol enthusiast. Proud travel aficionado. Incurable twitter scholar.

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