A headache is a pain that occurs in any area of your head. The pain of a headache can:
- Occur on both sides of your head
- Be located on only one side of your head
- Be limited to a specific location
- Radiate from one location to another on your head
- Feel like a vise is squeezing your head
Headache pain can be sharp, throbbing, or it can feel like a dull ache. A headache may come on gradually, or it can occur suddenly. Headaches can last less than an hour, or they can persist for several days.
Typically, headaches result not from serious ailments. However, some headaches can be caused by life-threatening conditions that require emergency care.
Doctors classify headaches into primary and secondary by their causes.
Primary headaches causes
Problems with pain-sensitive structures in the head or their hyperactivity result in primary headaches. However, it is important to note that primary headaches aren’t a symptom of underlying diseases.
Also, the chemical activity of your brain, the muscles of your neck and head, the blood vessels, and the nerves surrounding your skull play a role in the development of primary headaches. In addition, some people carry specific genes that contribute to primary headaches.
Common primary headaches include:
- Cluster headaches
- Tension headaches
- Migraines with aura
- Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia (TAC), such as paroxysmal hemicrania and cluster headache
There are also less common primary headaches patterns. Such headaches have specific features, including pain associated with a particular activity or unusual duration.
Even though following headaches are considered primary, they can be a symptom of underlying ailments.
- Cough headaches
- Chronic daily headaches (including chronic migraines, chronic tension-type headaches, etc.)
- Exercise headaches
- Headaches caused by intercourse
Some factors may trigger primary headaches. Such factors include:
- Alcohol, especially red wine
- Skipped meals
- Lack of sleep or changes in sleep
- Certain food (for instance, processed meat containing nitrates)
- Poor posture
Secondary headaches causes
Secondary headaches can result from certain diseases that activate pain-sensitive nerves in the head. A number of medical conditions varying in the severity of symptoms and complications may cause secondary headaches.
Among the possible causes of secondary headaches are:
- Arterial tears (carotid or vertebral dissections)
- Chiari malformation (structural problem at the skull base)
- Blood clot (venous thrombosis)
- Dental problems
- Brain AVM (arteriovenous malformation)
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Pseudotumor cerebri
- Overuse of pain medication
- Intracranial hematoma
- Inflammation of arteries lining
- Glaucoma (acute angle-closure glaucoma)
- Overuse of pain medication
- Panic attacks and panic disorder
- Pressure from tight headgear
- Persistent post-concussive symptoms (Post-concussion syndrome)
- Coronavirus disease
- Brain tumor
Types of secondary headaches
- External compression headaches (results from pressure-causing headgear)
- Ice cream headaches (also known as brain freeze)
- Medication overuse headaches (results from overuse of pain medication)
- Sinus headaches (caused by congestion and inflammation in sinus cavities)
- Spinal headaches (results from low pressure or volume of cerebrospinal fluid)
- Thunderclap headaches (includes sudden, severe headaches with a variety of causes)