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Condition. Headache

By Editorial Team (2)
January 31, 2022
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What is a headache?

A headache can be defined as pain occurring in any area of the head. The pain may develop only on one side of the head or occur on both sides. A headache may be located in one particular area, or it may move across the head from one area to another. Some headaches feel as though the head is being squeezed in a vice. Some people describe the pain from a headache as throbbing, others describe a dull ache, and others experience very sharp pains. Headaches may come on suddenly or appear gradually. Some only last a few minutes, and others may last for several days.

Headache causes

The factors related to what causes a headache to occur could be directly related to lifestyle choices, possibly high levels of stress, underlying illnesses, and more. The cause of a headache would essentially have to be diagnosed by a professional and specialist to ensure the actual source and treatment required.

There are two types of headaches. It is described by the International Headache Society (IHS) as “Primary” when there is no relation or connection with a headache to another health ailment and “Secondary” when other underlying illnesses cause a headache.

In the primary sense, what causes a headache may be overactive functions within the head, which later results in the pain experienced. The structures within the head, such as blood vessels, nerves, and muscles, may be pain-sensitive.

More reasons for what causes a headache

What causes a headache to occur more frequently is not well understood. There has been no reason identified to explain the cause for true chronic daily headaches. Some possible reasons for these headaches may include: 

  1. You respond more intensely to pain signals
  2. The portion of your brain that controls how you interpret pain signals is not working correctly

Types of headache

PRIMARY HEADACHES INCLUDE:

  • Migraines
  • Tension headaches
  • Cluster headaches
  • Roundabout headaches

Migraines

A migraine headache can disrupt a regular day with symptoms such as blurred vision, lightheadedness, and nausea. They can also feel pulsating and throbbing on one section of the head. Sometimes the affected person can experience seeing “auras”, which can last anywhere from 5 to 20, and even 60 minutes.

Auras sometimes occur before a migraine. Auras can also distort vision causing the individual to see flashes of lights or other patterns. Migraines can last from a few hours to 3 days and are caused by brain chemical changes, imbalances, genetics, and environmental influences. These influences may also include diet, stress, anxiety, or medication, to name a few.

Tension headaches

Tension headaches are commonly experienced headaches and can cause feeling as if a tight band is around the head, a dull but continuous ache at the sides of the head, and pain emanating from the neck to the head. It can also cause tenderness on the scalp and tingling. The two types include:

  • Episodic – can be experienced for 30 minutes and can last a weak
  • Chronic – can occur for several days for consecutive days

What causes a headache, such as tension headaches, is unknown, but factors like stress are one of the main triggers to cause this pain.

Cluster headaches

What causes a headache, such as a cluster type, cannot be pinpointed, but during this time, the cluster headache will cause pain around one of the eyes and is related to the nerve in the face. These headaches are very severe and will occur every year at the same time or same season. They “strike hard and fast” and can last for 5 to 15 minutes every day for a few weeks or even months.

Roundabout headaches

Roundabout headaches can occur when individuals overuse painkillers to alleviate a headache. This will only result in a re-occurrence and an even stronger headache once the pain medication wears off. In addition, they can cause feelings of relentlessness, inability to sleep, neck pain, and congestion.

SECONDARY HEADACHES

The factors associated with what causes secondary headaches relate to other aspects such as health concerns. Secondary headaches can be caused because of:

  • Blood clots
  • Tumor in the brain
  • Bleeding inside or around the brain
  • Dehydration
  • Concussion
  • Panic attacks
  • Stroke
  • Severe Bruxism (severe teeth grinding)
  • Glaucoma
  • Influenza
  • Hangover due to excessive drinking

Thunderclap Headaches

Thunderclap headaches occur as a secondary headache resulting from a health concern. They can last for 60 seconds and sometimes for a few days. They may cause nausea, vomiting, weakness, vision changes, and confusion.

What causes a headache, such as a thunderclap headache, can be a result of arterial bleeding. These can be due to the slightest tear in the artery linked to your head or neck, an aneurysm, blocked veins within your head, spinal fluid leakage, brain infection, or sudden changes in blood pressure.

Factors such as taking narcotics, physical and hard labor, as well as touching hot or warm water in an instant when you bathe or shower can trigger thunderclap headaches.

You can seek professional assistance from an ophthalmologist (eye specialist), neurologist (specializes in the nervous system), otolaryngologist (ear, nose, and throat specialist), or psychiatrist (specializes in mental treatment and disorders).

What causes a headache can also be classified by when they occur and their duration:

  • Acute Headaches: When someone experiences a particular type of headache for the first time, it is considered acute. Circumstances that might cause an acute headache include a concussion, a stroke, meningitis, seizures, or encephalitis.
  • Subacute Headaches: These types of headaches can persist for long periods of time without relief. Some possible causes for these include hypertension, neuralgias, and temporal arteritis.
  • Chronic Headaches: These headaches can persist for years. Tension-type headaches and migraine are common examples.

Headache risk factors

Several factors increase the risk of headaches development or recurrence. These factors include:

  • Increased anxiety
  • Problems sleeping
  • Depression
  • Snoring
  • Obesity
  • Excessive use of pain medications
  • Excessive caffeine intake
  • Poor posture, especially positions that put a strain on the neck and head

Prevalence

Of all the nervous system disorders, headaches are one of the most frequent problems that occur. Researchers estimate that nearly half of the world’s adult population has had symptoms of a headache disorder in the past year. From 50 to 75% of people between 18 to 65, globally, have had a headache in the past 12 months, and over 10% of those have reported migraine. From 1.4 to 4% of adults worldwide report headaches for at least 15 days out of every month.

What causes a headache and its symptoms may differ from one patient to another. If you suspect that you need medical assistance or need help diagnosing the problem to source the proper medical care and treatment, then you may want to visit your general practitioner.

Headaches can affect the eyes and cause various symptoms, including but not limited to weakness, vomiting, blurred vision, tenderness on the scalp and neck, and sensory disturbances. Headaches are experienced by a vast majority of people, including young children.

Statistics suggest that many adults who suffer from headaches began experiencing them as a child. A small percentage of adolescence also experience migraines and tension headaches, some are non-progressive. Headaches in children can be due to illness, diet, or stress factors, to name just a few. Finding a cure for what causes a headache can be beneficial for many people.

Read also: Tips to Avoid Headaches: Sleeping, Bedding, Napping, & Pain Killers

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