Headache is a common illness that everyone experiences at some point in their lives. They can range from a minor pain to a serious condition. Numerous factors, including lifestyle, underlying health issues, and environmental triggers, contribute to the development of headaches. Though most headaches are harmless, it is best to understand what type of headache one must determine the complexity and necessity for medical attention 

Types of Headaches

There are more than 200 types of headaches which feel quite different in terms of signs and symptoms. Headaches are categorised into primary and secondary headaches

Primary headaches: These headaches happen on their own due to dietary factors, lifestyle, excessive screen time and more, and not due to an underlying health condition. The most common types of primary headaches are:  

  • Tension headaches: This headache is commonly associated with stress and tensed muscles. Pain is usually on both sides of the head. This can last for 30 minutes or days together depending on the situation causing the headache. Tension headache affects over one third of men and over one half of women in developed countries.
  • Migraine: Intense, throbbing pain along with other symptoms including nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light/noise. The pain is usually on one side of the head and can last for hours or days. Migraine affects 1 in 7 adults in the world.
  • Cluster headaches: Extreme pain that occurs in clusters of attacks during the same time, every day. The pain is usually behind the eye and feels like a burn or someone stabbing. It can also cause runny eyes with watery discharge, red eye, and runny nose.

Secondary headaches: This type of headache has an underlying health condition associated with it. The most common types of secondary headaches are:

  • Headaches caused due to infections.
  • Headaches caused due to injury to the head or due to a concussion.
  • Vascular Disorders: Conditions affecting blood vessels, such as a stroke or aneurysm, can cause headaches.
  • Issues with the eyes.
  • Neck or Cranial Nerve Disorders: Issues with the neck or cranial nerves may result in secondary headaches.
  • In extreme cases, a tumour.
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Causes of Headaches

Primary headaches could be caused due to dietary or lifestyle factors such as

  • Alcohol consumption
  • Allergies
  • Large amounts of caffeine
  • Excessive screen time
  • Skipping meals
  • Stress and Sedentary lifestyle
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Bright lights, strong smells, and loud noises

Secondary headaches are commonly caused by an underlying condition such as:

  • Infections (Sinusitis or cold)
  • Ear infections
  • Dental issues
  • Side effects or overuse of certain medicines
  • Dehydration
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Potentially serious reasons include stroke, tumour, aneurysms, head injuries, meningitis.

It is important to differentiate between primary and secondary headache causes, especially in identifying potentially life-threatening conditions like stroke, tumour, or aneurysms. Symptoms such as sudden onset of severe headache, headache following a head injury, or headaches accompanied by neurological symptoms require immediate medical attention.

Treatment and Prevention

Majority of the primary headaches can be managed with lifestyle modification and dietary adjustments whereas for recurrent primary headaches or secondary headaches medical invention would be needed.   

Lifestyle Modifications: Stress reduction techniques, regular exercise, and sufficient sleep can significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches.  

Dietary Adjustments: Identifying and avoiding trigger foods (eg. aged cheeses, processed meats, alcohol, and foods containing MSG), maintaining consistent meal schedules, and staying hydrated can contribute to headache prevention

Sometimes stressful conditions at the workplace or home can lead to headaches. It is important to take a break and give time for your body to relax with stress reduction techniques such as meditation, yoga, or cognitive-behavioural therapy. 

When should I Seek Medical Help?

It is crucial to consult with a healthcare professional for a proper diagnosis if someone experiences persistent or severe headaches. You can now get immediate attention to your headache and consult a general practitioner within 15 minutes with Hola Health. Approach a doctor right away if you have any of these following symptoms: 

  • Taking pain medication to alleviate headaches at least thrice a week.
  • Severe and recurrent headaches that come on suddenly.
  • Headache in the morning along with nausea
  • Pain that wakes you up from sleep
  • New onset headaches in adults over 50
  • Headache after an injury to the head even if the injury is healed.
  • Headache accompanied with fever, vomiting, stiffness in the neck, confusion, blurred or double vision, seizure, or a loss of balance.
It is important to note that numerous factors can contribute to headaches, and individuals may experience more than one type. Lifestyle modifications, stress management, and, in some cases, medical intervention can help alleviate and manage headache symptoms. If someone experiences severe or persistent headaches, it is advisable to consult with a healthcare professional for proper diagnosis and treatment.
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Reference

  1. Headaches-Health direct: Reference Link
  2. Types of Headaches – Migraine and Headache Australia: Reference Link
  3. Headaches – Department of health – Government of Western Australia: Reference Link
  4. When to see a doctor for headache – Harvard Health – Harvard Medical School: Reference Link
  5. World Health Organisation (WHO) – Headaches factsheet: Reference Link

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Disclaimer

This content is created for informational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the guidance of your doctor or other qualified health professional with any questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. For emergencies please immediately contact 000.