Nearly everyone suffers from a headache at some point in life. But, there
are different types of headaches, and knowing which sort you are suffering
from could make coping with your pain easier.
About 78 percent of adults experience a tension-type headache, which is
the most common form of headache. The underlying cause is likely due to
imbalances in the brain and may be related to muscle tightening in the
back of the neck and/or scalp. There are three kinds of tension-type headaches:
- episodic, occurring less than once per month and considered “stress” headaches
- frequent, occurring 1-15 days per month, often simultaneously with migraines
- chronic, occurring 15 or more days per month, and often associated with
depression or other emotional problems.
A migraine headache is identified by throbbing pain, usually on one side
of the head and often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and
sound. Migraines affect both men and women, although three times more
women experience them. Migraines are often hereditary. If both parents
suffer from migraines, there is a 75 percent chance their children will.
When only one parent has migraines, there is a 50 percent chance their
children will too. Triggers may include one or more of the following:
diet, activity, environment, emotions, medications and hormones.
Less common are cluster headaches, which are characterized by groupings
of attacks. The cause of clusters is unknown, and about 90 percent of
the sufferers are men. Clusters start suddenly with a feeling of discomfort
or a mild, one-sided burning sensation. Although the pain of each attack
is felt for a short amount of time, the headache itself may last several
hours, often recurring later the same day.
Secondary headaches are a symptom of other diseases and disorders, like
tumors, infection, high blood pressure, blood clots and aneurysms. Because
these conditions can be life- threatening, immediate evaluation by a physician
is recommended. Some signs that the headache is related to a serious disorder
include: change in headache pattern; headache associated with a medical
problem such as focal weakness, loss of consciousness or confusion; or
pain that becomes progressively more severe.
Source: National Headache Foundation
In order to accurately diagnose your headache pain, it is important to
consult with a physician. This evaluation will include a history, physical
examination and possible testing to exclude underlying diseases. For more
information, contact your health care provider or North Oaks Neurology
Clinic at (985) 345-7525.