A condition consisting of pain in the head or upper neck. It may occur on one or both sides of the head, either isolated to a certain location or radiating from one point of the head to another. There are 4 main types of “primary” headache:
- Cluster headache – A condition of severe, recurring pain typically isolated on one side of the head. This type of headache is characterized by the “clustering” or frequent pattern of headaches occurring in the area.
- Episodic cluster headaches —A type of cluster headache that occurs one or more times daily for several weeks. There may be a period of remission after having this type of headache for some time, but the symptoms tend to reappear.
- Chronic cluster headaches—A type of cluster headache that occurs almost daily with shorter periods of remission.
- Migraine headache – A type of recurring headache that incorporates more issues with sensation, such as incurring visual changes. Unlike other headaches, a migraine is affected more by blood vessels, nerves and brain chemicals. This type of headache can occur less frequently than a cluster headache, but the symptoms may be more severe and interfering with everyday life situations.
- Tension headache – A type of headache associated with stress and muscle contraction. As the name suggests, this headache occurs most frequently in response to a stressful event. Areas of pain include the upper back and neck, around the ears and above the eyes.
- Sinus headache – A type of headache associated with head and facial pain caused by the inflammation of a person’s sinuses. The onset of this headache is typically a response to allergies and cold symptoms.
Other, “secondary” headaches may also occur due to an underlying structural problem in a person’s head or neck. These types of headache are caused by factors such as bleeding in the brain, brain tumors or incurring cases of meningitis and encephalitis.
The cause of a headache can vary depending on the type it is. A tension headache is caused most typically by the onset of a stressful event, whereas a sinus headache is the result of responding to allergies or cold symptoms. Finding a direct cause of both a migraine and cluster headache is more difficult, however, but may be due to abnormal brain activity, dietary changes, modifications in sleeping patterns or drug/alcohol abuse.
Headaches consist mainly of pain, ranging from mild to severe. Pain symptoms can consist of a sharp pain, throbbing sensation or dull ache. It may appear gradually or suddenly, and may last for varied amounts of time. Other symptoms can include blurred vision, dizziness, visual apparitions (commonly referred to as auras), nausea, change in mood and sensitivity to light and noise.
After a headache subsides, a person may feel a sense of fatigue, soreness in certain muscles and trouble concentrating.
The most common treatment of a headache is with pain medication, such as over the counter drugs. However, overuse of certain types of medication can actually trigger a headache to occur. Another popular treatment technique involves headache therapy, where a person learns preventative techniques to help recognize and treat the onset of a headache. For more severe headaches, surgery may be done to relieve pressure or “deactivate” a triggered nerve that is causing the symptoms to recur.