6 Types of Headaches: How to Recognize Which Ones are Dangerous

By John Summerly. Originally published on preventdisease.com

1. INTRODUCTION

Ordinary headaches are part of the normal human experience and there are many ways to get rid of a headache fast. Headaches that are severe, persistent or associated with other symptoms may signal other health problems. While most headaches are completely harmless, there are several major types to be aware of.

The brain itself is insensitive to pain. Headache pain occurs either in the tissues covering the brain, attaching structures at the base of the brain, or Muscles and blood vessels around the scalp, face, and neck.

A Primary Headache is one when a disease or other medical condition does not cause it.

Secondary headaches are caused by other medical conditions, such as sinusitis infection, neck injuries or abnormalities, and stroke. About 2% of headaches are secondary headaches caused by abnormalities or infections in the nasal or sinus passages.

In this article we look at 6 frequent types of headaches…

Types of Headaches

TMJ Headache

Young beautiful woman has pain in the yaw
TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) headache is caused by clenching the jaws or grinding the teeth (usually during sleep), or by abnormalities in the jaw joints themselves.

The diagnosis is easy if chewing produces pain or if jaw motion is restricted or noisy.

TMJ pain can occur in the ear, cheek, temples, neck, or shoulders.

Sinus Headache

Many primary headaches, including migraine, are misdiagnosed as sinus headache. Sinus headaches can occur in the front of the face, usually around the eyes, across the cheeks, or over the forehead.

They are usually mild in the morning and increase during the day and are usually accompanied by fever, runny nose, congestion, and general debilitation.

Sinus headaches spread over a larger area of the head than migraines, but it is often difficult to tell them apart, particularly if headache is the only symptom of sinusitis; they even coexist in many cases.

Often, the visual changes associated with migraine can rule out sinusitis, but such visual changes do not occur with all migraines.

Cluster Headache

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Cluster headaches are among the most painful of all headaches. The signature is a pattern of periodic cycles of headache attacks, which may be episodic or chronic. (It should be noted that a significant percentage of people who experience a first cluster attack do not have another one.) Between 80% and 90% of these headache patients have episodic cluster headache cycles. Such patients experience cycles of daily or near daily attacks that may last from one week to one year. During an active cycle, sufferers can experience one or more bouts a day, or as few as one every other day.

The attacks themselves are usually brief but extremely painful. Such cycles are followed by headache-free periods lasting at least fourteen days. About 10% of cluster headache patients have a chronic form, which lasts more than a year and remissions that last less than 14 days. About 10% of patients experience so-called premonitory symptoms from one day to 8 weeks before a cluster headache attack. They can include fatigue, neck ache, stiffness, odd sensations in the limbs, an extreme sensitivity in the area where the headache will develop. When the actual attack occurs, symptoms typically increase rapidly (within about 15 minutes) to intense levels.

People often awaken with them a few hours after they go to bed. The attack typically causes very severe, stabbing or boring pain centered in one eye. Pain may also occur above the eye, near the temples, or on one side of the head. Migraine-like symptoms (sensitivity to light and sound, auras and rarely, nausea and vomiting) may occur. Women have a higher risk for nausea and vomiting than men do. Capsaicin-based nasal sprays have been found to be very effective for cluster headaches.

Tension Headache

Tension-type headache (also called muscle contraction headache) is the most common of all headaches. Tension-type headache is often experienced in the forehead, in the back of the head and neck, or in both regions. It is commonly described as a tight feeling, as if the head were in a vise.

Soreness in the shoulders or neck is common.

Sufferers of tension-type headaches are more sensitive to light than the general population, even between attacks. They also may suffer from visual disturbances. (Neither of these symptoms is as intense as in people with migraines. Tension-type headaches also do not cause nausea or limit activities as migraine headaches do.) Tension-type headaches can last minutes to days.

—> NEXT: Neck Headache and Migraines

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