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A quick guide to different types of headaches and causes of headache


We all must have experienced a headache at some point in time in our lives. Headaches may arise due to various reasons such as depression, stress, a migraine condition, high BP, anxiety, physical exertion, etc. But it is necessary to determine the type of headache one has to get a suitable treatment for the same. A person who experiences a headache feels discomfort or pain on their forehead, beneath the scalp, and even behind their eyes. It is said that about 52% of people are affected by headache issues across the globe, with 14% of them confirmed as migraine cases.


Headache conditions are generally harmless that come and vanish in some time, but in other cases, a headache can be a symptom of some serious health-related issues. Here in this article, we are going to discuss the different types of headaches in detail:


Common causes of headache

Headaches can cause discomfort and can prove to be painful. Usually, there are two causes of headaches:


Primary causes

Primary headaches usually occur due to tension or migraine problems. Such headaches do not indicate any underlying disease. Usually, it happens due to disruption in sleeping patterns and stress factors. Primary headaches may also occur due to overactivity and problems that result in head and neck structure.


Secondary causes

Secondary headaches can be more of a cause of concern and can occur due to some other underlying health issues and disorders. It may happen due to the following reasons:

  • Stroke
  • Tumour
  • Head injury
  • Trauma
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Overdose of medications
  • High blood pressure
  • Sinus congestion
  • Mental health condition
  • Nervous disorders
  • Infection


Types of Headaches

Headaches can be primary or secondary. There are about 150 different types of headaches; here we list the most prominent ones:


Cluster headache

Cluster headaches hardly affect 1% of the global population and occur in rare cases. It arises multiple times a day, and though the symptoms are brief but can give a severe headache.


While having a cluster headache, the pain is usually concentrated around one eye, which may also cause redness and teary eyes. Additionally, one may also experience a runny nose, drooping eyelids, and nose congestion.


Exercise headache

Exercise headache, as the name suggests, arises out of excess exertion and is a primary headache type that usually occurs when one gets involved in high-end physical activities and strenuous exercises. They may experience throbbing and pulsating pain on both sides of the head.


Migraine headache

Migraine is also a type of primary headache and can be a lifelong symptom. A migraine headache causes a throbbing and pounding pain and lasts for about three to four hours. People may experience intense pain in case of migraine that stays concentrated on a specific area or side.


People who suffer from migraine pain may also show other symptoms such as vomiting, nausea, light sensitivity, sensitivity to smell and noise, upset stomach, belly pain, loss of appetite, etc.


Pregnancy headache

During pregnancy, headache is a common sight. About 10 to 17% of pregnant women are found complaining about migraine or primary headaches, which may happen due to hormonal changes and stress experienced during the pregnancy phase.


Tension-type headache

Tension headaches are common in adults and usually come and go in some time. It shows no other symptoms except mild or moderate pain in the head. It is a primary type of headache but can significantly impact people who suffer from such a headache condition. 


Tension-type headache causes pain on both sides of the head and even towards the front and backside of the skull. Though tension-type headache episodes are usually ignored, if it persists in a continuous fashion and is left untreated, they may give birth to some serious complications such as sleep disruption, anxiety, and depression.


Thunderclap headache

Thunderclap headaches creep up all of a sudden and can take a peek in no time. It is one of the worst kinds of headaches that one may experience. Thunderclap headaches usually occur due to head injuries, blood vessel blockage or rupture, inflamed blood vessels, hemorrhagic stroke, etc.


Medication overuse headache

Medication overuse headache is also known as medication withdrawal headache or rebound headache and occurs due to over usage of medications to treat headache conditions. When a prescription medicine is used for headaches twice or thrice a week, which lessens the pain for some time but reappears when the effect of the medicine wears down, causing a constant headache, it is a sign of a rebound headache.


It comes under the secondary type of headache and can lead to chronic migraine and tension headaches.


Treatment for headache


Taking enough rest and pain relief medications can help in headache treatment. A few other headache treatments include:

  • Pain relief medications
  • Treatment for any underlying disease
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Preventive medications for migraine condition
  • Integrative treatments such as acupuncture, meditation, cognitive behavioral therapy, etc.


But it is crucial for anyone suffering from a headache to take medicines as per the doctor’s guidance, as they can ease your headache with safe medications.


When should you see a doctor?

Generally, headaches are short-lived and go away on their own. But if you are experiencing a headache quite frequently, thrice or more than that in a month, it's high time you seek medical assistance.

Also, if frequent headaches cause depression and stress and impact your quality of life, you should consider visiting a doctor to get preventive treatment.


Medanta Medical Team
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