HEADACHES: CAUSES AND TYPES

Headache is a general health problem. That is, majority of us have experienced it at one time or the other with different severity. Many of us are familiar with the throbbing, clustering and distracting pain of a headache. Headaches can affect the quality of life if not effectively managed. Headache may affect a particular part of the head and may even radiate to other parts. Recognizing the cause, location and type of headache pain are pre-requisite for your healthcare provider to take the appropriate action.

Factors that Triggers Headache

These factors include

  • physical and emotional stress,
  • depression or anxiety
  • medical conditions such as high blood pressure
  • environmental conditions such as hot weather

Types of headaches based on cause

  1. Primary headache: It is a type of headache that results from problems arising from structures of the neck and head. It is usually not a symptom of an underlying illness. This type of headache may be due to overactivity of brain chemicals, muscles, blood vessels and/or nerves. Such headache often feels like there is tension in the head.
  2. Secondary headache: this type of headache often signifies the presence of an underlying health condition. Such health condition may include pregnancy, brain tumor, systemic infection, stroke, hypothyroidism and so on. This form of headache is severe and it is accompanied by sensory changes.

Types based on location and intensity

Tension headaches

This is a type of primary headache, and it is usually caused by stress. No throbbing sensation is experienced but aches may be felt all over the head. Tenderness around the neck, forehead, scalp, or shoulder muscles might also occur. Analgesics and rest may be all it takes to get rid of the headache.

Migraines

This is a very serious type of headache. This headache can significantly stop an individual from performing activities for daily living. It is usually characterized by an intense and sharp pulsing pain from within a side of the head for days, and sensitivity to light and sound.

Triptans are often prescribed for migraines. Triptans decrease inflammation and change the flow of blood within the brain.

Cluster headaches

These headaches are usually episodic. It ranges from 3-4 episodes per day. Each episode can last minutes to hours. They are characterized by severe burning, swelling, redness, and piercing pain on the side that is affected by the headache

Common management include the use of NSAIDs, local anesthesia, and oxygen therapy.

Sinus headaches

These headaches are often located in the sinus area and front of the head. They are treated by thinning out the mucus that builds up and causes pressure in the sinuses.

Treatment usually involves the use of decongestants, antihistamines, steroid sprays and sometimes antibiotics.

Post-traumatic headaches

These are headaches that develops after sustaining an head injury. It can affect any part of the head. They may feel like migraine or tension-type headaches, and can last up to 6 to 12 months post-injury. Treatment involves the use of triptans, amitriptyline, and beta-blockers.

Rebound headaches

This type of headache usually occur as a result of drug overuse. Such headaches are often characterized by a dull, tension-type headache and the pain may be as intense as that of a migraine.

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