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What is Headaches: Different Types & Their Causes & Treatment

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Whenever you have severe pain in your head, and all your mom says is, “it’s all because you use too much of your mobile phone.. but that’s not true, at least not every time. There are several factors that can cause headaches, and no wonder there are not just one but various types of headaches. 

Here, with the insights of Dr Anish Gupta, a leading ENT Specialist, we will explain the different types and causes of headaches. 

What is a Headache?

In simple terms, a headache is a throbbing pain-causing inconvenient discomfort in the head that makes even daily and minor chores difficult. One of the most prevalent complaints and one of the most typical indicators of any condition or disease is a headache. So, if you’re suffering from an excruciating and throbbing headache, you’re not alone.

A headache can cause a strong discomfort in any portion of the head, and additional symptoms may accompany it.

Different Types of Headaches

This article will discuss the most common types of headaches, what causes them, and how to manage or treat them. 

1. Migraine 

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Migraine is a type of pain in which intense, throbbing pain makes it difficult for the person to even sit comfortably. In migraine, along with headaches, the patient starts to feel nauseated and feel extreme sensitivity to light and sound. 

Causes of Migraine

Though the cause of migraine is still not known but it is assumed to be caused by aberrant brain activity that disrupts nerve signals, neurotransmitters, and blood vessels in the brain.

A migraine attack triggers again and again, and each attack can last for hours. There are a few sensory disturbances that occur in migraine:- partial loss of vision, zig-zag lines, numbness, and muscle weakness.

Treatment of Migraine

Using pain-relieving medication and following preventive measures can help manage migraine pain. Doctors may prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs to help manage nausea, vomiting, and migraine pain.

Simple home remedies like resting in a quiet place, keeping yourself hydrated, and can also place an ice pack on the forehead.

An individual with migraine issues should also consider making changes in their diet, doing activities to help maintain their stress levels, and can also try acupuncture.

2. Tension Headache

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Tension is something that affects most people at some time, either while working on a school assignment or bursting your brains for your office projects. This tension headache can be triggered by any stress, anxiety, and feeling of depression.

A mild to severe pain in the head starts to feel like an uncomfortable tight band tied around the head, giving a pump-like feeling in the head.

Causes of Tension Headache

There can be several reasons behind tension headaches like stress, bad posture leading to cervical pain, lack of sleep, strained eyes, empty stomach, dehydration, muscle soreness, etc. In tension headache, the tension can last for approximately 30 minutes. 

Treatment of Tension Headache

Pain relievers like pain medications or pain-relieving ointments can help relieve the severe pain in the head. The application of ice or heat packs to sore muscles can help reduce pain and stress levels.

Making some changes in your lifestyle can help treat and avoid frequent tension headaches. These include

  • Stretching and exercising regularly 
  • Doing yoga and meditating for at least 30 minutes
  • Maintaining a right posture 
  • Reducing sitting time
  • Eye test every 5 years (age 20 to 39), every 2 to 4 years (age 40 to 54) and every 1 to 3 years (age 55 to 64)
  • Manage stress, anxiety and depression
  • Acupuncture: Putting pressure on specific points to release tension

3. Cluster Headache

Cluster Headache Image

There are several headache reasons that we as an individual is not aware of. One such is cluster headache, for which the actual cause of why cluster headache happens is still left unknown.

Cluster headaches can be excruciating for the individual as they can start anytime during the day and can last for a limited time, but the person may suffer several bouts of headaches which can happen for a few days, weeks or several months.

However, cluster headache is not a common concern but is mostly found more in men, especially those who are excessive smokers. 

Causes of Cluster Headache

Though it is not clear why cluster headaches occur, there are some theories that explain why cluster headaches can happen.

When there is more activity in the small but very important area in the center of the brain called the hypothalamus during an attack, this part of the brain releases chemicals that cause the blood vessels to widen, leading to severe pain in the head (around the eyes).

Some other common triggers of cluster headaches are the consumption of alcohol working out in extremely hot weather leading to a sudden rise in the body temperature.

Treatment of Cluster Headaches

As the cause of cluster headaches is unknown and so there is no cure for cluster headaches. The treatment can help and manage the pain caused due to cluster headaches.

The treatment can help shorten the bouts of pain and help relieve some of the symptoms. Certain over-the-counter medications can help reduce the effectiveness of the pain.

4. Allergy or Sinus Headache

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Sinus headache is directly linked with sinusitis- inflammation around the nasal passages. A sinus headache occurs when a person’s sinusitis becomes severe, making it difficult to hold mucus.

It’s not just the head that pains, facial muscles start to pain, including cheeks, teeth and gums, ears etc. It starts b a throbbing pain around the eyes and forehead, which worsens with time, leading to uncontrollable nasal discharge.

Causes of Sinus Headache

Sinus headaches can be a result of any allergy that affects the nose and head. Sinus headache stems from various factors, including bacterial infarction, which may lead to sinusitis, certain allergies like allergy from incense sticks, perfume, dust, and other pollutants in the air like emission of chemicals from factories and other irritants. 

Treatment of Sinus Headache

For treating sinus headaches, it is essential to take some doctor recommended medication and sleep for some time, drink plenty of fluids, use nasal decongestants, take antibiotics as per doctors’ suggestion.

These headaches are more common in people who frequently suffer from seasonal allergies or sinusitis.

5. Menstrual Migraines or Hormone Headaches

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Understandably, menstrual pain makes the body very sore and tiring. But that’s not it menstruation cycle at times also leads to headaches, therefore, called hormone headaches or menstrual migraines.

Migraine may occur during menstruation due to changes in estrogen levels. Headaches related to periods often occur 2-3 days after the cycle or during the ovulation phase. 

Causes of Hormone Headache

As the name suggests, it is caused due to changes in hormone levels. It could be a result of menopause, oral contraceptive pills, and pregnancy. 

Treatment of Hormone Headaches

Menstrual headache has the same treatment plan as migraine. Doctors may advise all possible measures that can help prevent the occurrence of hormonal headaches. Undergoing hormonal therapy, or taking certain medication around the time of periods, will help reduce the pain and avoid using contraceptive pills.

6. Head Injury Headaches

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Headache occurs immediately after a head injury. It’s normal to have pain in the head and feel nauseated after a head injury. It also affects a personals ability to focus or concentrate or even remember basic things around him.

A person may have other symptoms like a problem in vision, neck pain and ear pain, feel dizzy and confused, which all lead to head injury headache.

Causes of Head Injury Headache

As the name suggests, this type of headache is mostly due to a traumatic head injury that either occurred recently or years ago.

However, these headaches could be a result of a variety of conditions, like neck and skull injuries, side effects from medication or a change in brain functionality due to injury.

Treatment of Head Injury Headache

Over the counter medication may help relieve the pain caused due to head injury. An individual should seek medical attention in case of seizures, memory loss, problem concentrating, unconsciousness and problems in vision or hearing.

7. Thunderclap Headaches

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If there is sudden and severe pain in the head like a clap of thunder, it indicates thunderclap headaches. Thunderclap headaches, though, are uncommon pain in the head that can also become a life-threatening disease.

Symptoms of thunderclap headaches are very dramatic and sudden. There can be a sudden pain in the head that reaches peaks within 60 seconds and is accompanied by nausea or continuous vomiting, and there can be bouts of seizures as well.

Causes of Thunderclap Headaches

There are no visible causes to declare headache as thunderclap headaches, but some possible life-threatening causes are bleeding in the brain and the membranes of the brain, rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, sudden rise in the blood pressure, blood clot in the brain, ischemic stroke and infections such as meningitis or encephalitis.

Treatment of Thunderclap Headaches

Thunderclap headaches are treated by a neurologist. Thunderclaps as and when diagnosed should be treated immediately. The doctor may prescribe certain medications to treat thunderclap headaches. Anti-inflammatory medicines can help reduce swelling and help manage blood pressure.

8. Spine Headache or Lumbar puncture headache

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Spine headaches are common and leave an intense pain in the head. This occurs in people who undergo a spinal tap or lumbar puncture or injecting an injection in the spine, also known as spinal anaesthesia. If spinal fluids pass through the puncture site during spinal anesthesia, it may lead to spine headaches. 

Causes of Spine Headache

One of the most common causes of spinal headaches is when an epidural is given to a pregnant women before delivery.

This is because there are times when while injecting the needle, some fluid might get leaked, and the loss of fluid decreases the fluid balance, which surrounds the brain resulting in the tissues and nerves to stretch, leading to pain in the head.

Other conditions which results in spine headache are a ruptured cyst on the spinal cord or a head or face injury which fractures the skull.

Treatment of Spine Headache

Though most spine headaches are relieved on their own and do not require any special treatment, but in some cases, if the pain continues for more than 24 hours may need doctors’ assistance.

In conclusion

In today’s time, headaches are a common problem, but most headaches can be managed with home remedies or OTC medications.

However, if anyone experiences sudden unbearable pain making it difficult to even balance oneself or even speak, they should seek medical assistance. Dr Anish Gupta, a leading ENT Specialist, will be able to provide the correct diagnosis and the right treatment plan based on the signs and symptoms of the headaches. The right prescription can treat headaches like migraine, spine, and clusters.

Can you prevent headaches?

Headaches can be avoided to some extent. For example, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, avoiding skipping meals or creating unnecessary gaps in meals, reducing caffeine intake, managing your stress levels, and getting enough sleep.


FAQs

Q. What could be the cause of daily headaches?

When the pain in the head is continuous and lasts more than 24 hours, that is when the worry should kick in. Possible causes of daily headaches could be stress, anxiety, overthinking, inflammation in and around the brain, infections like meningitis and fluctuations in blood pressure.

Q. Is headache a symptom of corona?

Headache is one of the first possible symptoms of Covid-19. Other symptoms include fever, tiredness, loss of smell or taste and fever.

Q. Can dehydration cause headaches?

As all individuals’ bodies are different, even the slightest dehydration can cause headaches. And the other symptoms of dehydration are feeling dizzy, fatigued and having a dry mouth. Headache due to dehydration can be treated with home remedies like drinking enough water and taking OTC medication if needed.

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