What causes headache?
Headaches have a wide variety of causes, ranging from eyestrain to inflammation of the sinus cavities to life-threatening conditions such as encephalitis, brain cancer, and cerebral aneurysms. When the headache occurs in conjunction with a head injury the cause is usually quite evident; however, many causes of headaches are more elusive. The most common
type of headache is a tension headache. Some people experience headaches when they are hungry or dehydrated.
Traditional theories about headaches link tension-type headaches to muscle contraction, and migraine and cluster headaches to blood vessel dilation (swelling). Pain-sensitive structures in the head include blood vessel walls, membranous coverings of the brain, and scalp and neck muscles. Brain tissue itself has no sensitivity to pain. Therefore, headaches may result from contraction of the muscles of the scalp, face or neck; dilation of the blood vessels in the head; or brain swelling that stretches the brain's coverings. Involvement of specific nerves of the face and head may also cause characteristic headaches. Sinus inflammation is a common cause of headache. Keeping a headache diary may help link headaches to stressful occurrences, menstrual phases, food triggers, or medication.
Tension headaches are due to contraction (tightness) of the muscles in your shoulders, neck, scalp, and jaw. They are often related to stress, depression, or anxiety. Overworking, not getting enough sleep, missing meals, and using alcohol or street drugs can make you more susceptible to headaches. Foods that can trigger a headache include chocolate, cheese, and monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer. People who drink caffeine can have headaches when they don't get their usual daily amount.
Other common reasons lead to a tension headache include performing an activity that causes you to hold your head in one position for a long time (like using a computer, microscope, or typewriter), sleeping in a cold room or an abnormal position, overexerting yourself, clenching your jaw or grinding your teeth.
Tension headaches tend to be on both sides of your head. They often start at the back of your head and spread forward. The pain may feel dull or squeezing, even like a tight band or vice around your head. The muscle tension often begins in your shoulders, neck, or jaw before spreading to your head. Therefore, these areas may feel tight and sore as well.
Migraine headaches are severe, recurrent headaches that are generally accompanied by other symptoms like visual disturbances or nausea. They tend to begin on one side of your head, although the pain may spread to both sides. You may have an "aura" (warning symptoms that start before your headache) and usually feel a throbbing, pounding, or pulsating pain.
Cluster headaches are sharp, extremely painful headaches that tend to occur several times per day for months and then go away for a similar period of time. They are far less common than migraine or tension headaches. Sinus headaches cause pain in the front of your head and face. They are due to inflammation in the sinus passages that lie behind the cheeks, nose, and eyes. The pain tends to be worse when you bend forward and when you first wake up in the morning. Postnasal drip, sore throat, and nasal discharge usually occur with these headaches.
If you are over age 50 and are experiencing headaches for the first time, a condition called temporal arteritis may prove to be the cause. Symptoms of this condition include impaired vision and pain aggravated by chewing. There is a risk of becoming blind with this condition. Therefore, it must be treated by your doctor right away.
Rare causes of headache include brain aneurysm (a weakening of the wall of a blood vessel that can rupture and bleed into the brain),brain tumor, stroke or TIA, and brain infection like meningitis or encephalitis.
More information on headache
What is a headache? - A headache is a condition of mild to severe pain in the head. Tension headaches and migraine headaches account for 90% for all headaches. Headaches can be single or recurrent in nature.
What types of headaches are there? - A wide range of headache types have been classified in detail by the International Headache Society. Including tension-type headache (TTH), migraine, cluster headache.
What causes headache? - Causes of headaches range from eyestrain to inflammation of the sinus cavities to life-threatening conditions. Most headaches are due to tension, migraine, or a combination of the two.
What're the symptoms of a headache? - Signs and symptoms of a headache involve pain in the head, visual impairment such as blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, hearing impairment, irritability, confusion, malaise.
How're headaches diagnosed? - A physical exam assesses general health and a neurologic exam evaluates the possibility of neurologic disease that is causing the headache.
What headache remedies are available? - Appropriate treatment for headaches is highly specialized depending on the type of headache, individual response, and any associated health conditions.
What's a cluster headache? - Cluster headaches are rare headaches that occur in groups or clusters. Cluster headaches are frequency associated with drooping eyelids, red, watery eyes, and nasal congestion.
What causes a cluster headache? - The immediate cause of pain is in the trigeminal nerve. Cluster headaches are due to an abnormality in the hypothalamus.
What're the symptoms of a cluster headache? - The primary cluster headache symptom is excruciating one-sided head pain centered behind an eye or near the temple.
How is a cluster headache diagnosed? - Cluster headache symptoms guide the diagnosis. A neurologic examination may help doctor detect physical signs of a cluster headache.
How to cure cluster headache? - Treatment for cluster headaches is composed of induction, maintenance, and symptomatic therapies. Medications to treat cluster headaches are classified as either abortives or prophylactics.
What alternative cluster headache remedies are available? - Since some cluster headaches are triggered by stress, stress reduction techniques, such as yoga, meditation, and regular exercise, may be effective.
What's a migraine headache? - Migraine headache is a primary headache disorder with a genetic basis. Adults with migraine describe episodic attacks with specific features.
What causes a migraine headache? - Migraine headache attack is precipitated when pain-sensing nerve cells in the brain (called nociceptors) release chemicals called neuropeptides.
What're migraine headache triggers? - A wide variety of foods, drugs, environmental cues, and personal events are known to trigger migraine headaches.
What're the symptoms of migraine headaches? - Symptoms of migraine headaches include hallucinations, partial obstruction of the visual field, numbness or tingling, or a feeling of heaviness.
How is a migraine headache diagnosed? - The diagnosis of migraine headache rests solely on what a patient describes to a doctor. A diary can help document headache characteristics.
What's the treatment for migraine headache? - Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are helpful for early and mild migraine headache. Other drugs used for acute attacks include meperidine and metoclopramide.
What migraine medications are available? - Several nonprescription drugs and some relatively inexpensive prescription drugs are available for migraine headaches. Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs may be effective migraine prevention.
How to prevent migraine headaches? - The occurrence of common migraine may be reduced in high-risk people who avoid factors that have been associated with previous migraine.
What alternative migraine treatments are available? - Alternative treatments are aimed at prevention of migraine. Migraine headaches are often linked with food allergies or intolerances.
What is ocular migraine? - Ocular migraine is a term which may have different meanings to different physicians. Ocular migraines usually affect only one eye at a time.
How to relieve menstrual migraine? - Menstrual migraine is a migraine headache that affects a woman each month between the 2nd day before the start of the menstrual period and the end of menstruation.
Migraine headache during pregnancy - Over half of women find that their migraines occur less often in the last few months of pregnancy. About 15 to 20 percent of pregnant women have migraines.
What is tension headache? - Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. The primary cause of the pain is sustained muscle tension. Tension headaches can be episodic or chronic.
What causes tension headache? - Tension headaches are caused by muscle tension around the head and neck. tension headaches seem to be more common in women than in men.
What're the symptoms of tension headache? - A tension-type headache may cause diffuse pressure or tightness. The pain of tension headaches usually is mild (not disabling) and bilateral.
How is tension headache diagnosed? - Most tension-type headaches are diagnosed based on a complete and comprehensive history and physical examination.
What's the treatment for tension headache? - Nonprescription painkillers such as aspirin, acetaminophen or ibuprofen most commonly relieve tension headaches.
How to prevent tension headache? - To prevent tension headaches, many different antidepressants may be effective for individuals with and without depressive symptoms.
What're rebound headaches? - Rebound headaches are those caused by medication taken to relieve regular headaches. Rebound headaches frequently occur daily and can be very painful.
What's analgesic rebound headache? - Analgesic-rebound headaches are caused by successively frequent use of pain relievers, both prescription and over-the-counter medications.
What's ergotamine rebound headache? - Throbbing pain of migraine, in conjunction with escalating doses of ergotamine compounds usually indicates ergotamine rebound headache.
What's a sinus headache? - A sinus headache is a headache that occurs because your sinuses are congested with mucus. Sinus headache pain is due to swelling in the sinus cavities.
What causes a sinus headache? - Sinus headaches can be caused by a sinus infection or allergies. They may become infected with bacteria, a virus, or even fungus.
What're the symptoms of a sinus headache? - Symptoms of a sinus headache include pain or pressure in the forehead or around the eyes and cheek(s), tender skin and tender bones over and under the eyes.
How is a sinus headache diagnosed? -To diagnose sinus headache, the doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam.
What's the treatment for sinus headache relief? - Treatment of sinus headache is by treating the underlying condition, which may be allergic or infectious, and by nasal vasoconstrictors and analgesic medication.