Headaches come in two forms – primary headaches and secondary headaches. They may range from mild headaches probably due to lack of sleep the night before, to throbbing headaches which can also affect one’s vision probably after a night of heavy partying.
Some issues that may lead to headaches:
- medical issues – e.g., migraine, high blood pressure
- physical issues – injuries
- emotional issues – anxiety, depression or stress
- environmental – e.g., too hot, too cold
Frequent headaches will affect your quality of life; therefore it is important to be able to recognize and tell your medical practitioner the symptoms you are experiencing, so he or she can diagnose the cause and offer the proper treatment. Most headaches are not serious, but some may be related to a life-threatening condition that would even require emergency treatment.
When you experience a headache, pain may also be present in other parts of your body. Classifying your pain can help your medical practitioner to make a proper diagnosis.
Part 1 will focus on primary headaches.
Firstly, a primary headache is not life-threatening and not a symptom of an underlying disease. It is can be caused by problems involving the pain receptors in a person’s head and neck structures.
Overactivity of the following body parts may be the cause of a primary headache:
- Blood vessels
- Areas of the brain and brain chemicals
Common types of primary headaches are:
Cluster headaches – a neurological disorder with severe headaches on one side of the head, around the eye area making the affected eye swollen. Other symptoms that may be present – nasal congestion and watery eyes. These symptoms last around half an hour to three hours. Cluster headaches have been linked to abnormalities in the hypothalamus that trigger them.
Migraines – severe pulsing or throbbing pain, usually located on one side of the head. Other symptoms are extreme light and sound sensitivity, nausea and vomiting. Migraines can last for hours to days on end, and can interfere with one’s daily activities.
Migraine with aura – also known as a classic migraine, and is a recurring headache that happens during or after sensory disturbances called aura, e.g., blind spots or light flashes. This is a dangerous type of headache, as the shock from these sudden disturbances causes the temporary narrowing of blood vessels which can cause the formation of blood clots, leading to a high risk for a stroke.
Tension headaches – a mild to moderate pain sometimes described as a tight band around the head. An activity where the head is held in one position for long period of time can cause tension headaches. The headache may last for half an hour, but may remain for up to a week.
Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia (TAC), i.e., such as cluster headache combined with paroxysmal hemicrania (a rare form of headache occurring mostly in adults, with severe pain on one side of the face normally around the eye) characterized by pain in one side of the head or face, lasting for short durations. Other symptoms include nasal congestion and watery eyes.
There are other types of primary headaches having distinct features, but they occur less commonly. They are normally associated to a certain activity or even medication. Some of them are:
Cough headaches – triggered by bouts of coughing and other straining movements, e.g., sneezing, laughing, crying, or having a bowel movement.
Exercise headaches – happen after strenuous exercise, e.g., running, weightlifting, rowing.
Chronic daily headaches – can be broken down further into chronic migraine, chronic tension headache, daily headache, hemicrania continua.
This article is meant to be a general summary of common primary headaches, and is in no way to be taken as medical advice.
Do seek medical attention from a medical practitioner if you experience severe or recurring headaches, as it may be related to a current medical problem or a yet-to-be diagnosed medical problem. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment for all illnesses, and only a medical practitioner will be able to provide a correct diagnosis and offer proper treatment methods suited to the individual.
3rd July 19:50