What Does a Headache on the Right Side Mean?

Headaches are a common occurrence, with an estimated 75% of people worldwide experiencing at least one headache each year. But when a headache is located on the right side of the head, it can provide a clue as to the type of headache you are experiencing. There are more than 300 types of headache, and approximately 90% have no known cause. However, a migraine or cluster headache are the most likely causes of a headache on the right side of the head.

Tension headaches can also cause pain on one side in some people. Sinus infections and allergies can also be responsible for headaches. Headaches resulting from sinus infections are caused by inflammation, which leads to pressure and pain behind the cheekbones and forehead. A throbbing pain that lasts for a while, or is accompanied by nausea or changes in vision or other senses, is likely a migraine.

Light and noise can make it worse. A migraine can hurt only on one side, but not always. It's not very common, but a migraine can make your nose drip or clogged and your eyes watery, so you mistake it for a sinus infection. When you have migraines, they're usually triggered by the same things every time.

Recognizing the pattern is key to avoiding them. Usually, a migraine will cause a shooting pain in the left or right side of the head. However, migraine pain can sometimes affect both sides of the head, the back and front of the head and neck, and the face. Migraines and tension headaches are considered the main form of headaches.

These headaches are not caused by other problems such as dehydration. Having a headache that lasts longer than 2 days or having more than 15 headaches in a month are also reasons to talk to a doctor. Cluster headaches are rarer than migraines and tension headaches, but they tend to occur in a certain location. Primary headaches exist on their own, while secondary headaches arise from pregnancy, medication, trauma, or an underlying disease including infection or arthritis of the neck bones. If you have frequent headaches and use medicines, over-the-counter or prescription, or both for more than 10 to 15 days a month, you may have medication overuse headaches. If the headache comes with cold-like symptoms and pressure or tenderness in the face, you could have a headache in your sinuses.

Because the way you experience headaches can vary (and so do their underlying causes), you need to make sure you pay close attention to how headaches affect you. However, you should see your health care provider if your headache pattern is changing or your headaches start to interfere with your daily routine. Overuse can lead to rebound headaches and a vicious cycle of drugs and headaches.

Debora Lehneis
Debora Lehneis

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

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