Headache: Overview

Everyone is familiar with a simple headache, which is annoying but disappears after a few hours. There are many other types of headache (e.g. tension headache, cluster headaches, migraine) and there are many different causes of headache.

Causes of headache range from simple conditions that are mostly harmless (e.g. common headache, tension headache, etc.) to some more serious causes of headache (e.g. migraine, fever), up to some very severe and life-threatening possible diseases (e.g. stroke, concussion, brain hemorrhage, brain tumor, etc.).

See your doctor promptly for a full diagnosis of any headache symptom. Seek emergency medical care if any of the dangerous causes are suspected.

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Back to: « Headache

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If you suffer from headaches, you’re not alone. Headaches are one of the most common health complaints. They can be simply distracting or completely debilitating. Many headaches fade away without treatment. Some are easily remedied. Still others are stubborn and recurring. But only rarely do headaches warn of a serious illness.

Source: NIH News in Health (NIH)1

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You're sitting at your desk, working on a difficult task, when it suddenly feels as if a belt or vice is being tightened around the top of your head. Or you have periodic headaches that occur with nausea and increased sensitivity to light or sound. Maybe you are involved in a routine, non-stressful task when you're struck by head or neck pain. Perhaps you have daily head pain that just won’t go away.

Sound familiar? If so, you've suffered one of the many symptoms of headache that can occur on their own or as part of another disease or health condition.

Source: NINDS (NIH)2

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Headaches are very common. There is a wide variation in the type of pain you could experience with a headache, and how long it may last.

Source: New Zealand Health3

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There are four types of headache: vascular, muscle contraction (tension), traction, and inflammatory. Vascular headaches include "cluster” headaches, which cause repeated episodes of intense pain, and headaches resulting from high blood pressure,and toxic headache produced by fever. Muscle contraction headaches appear to involve the tightening or tensing of facial and neck muscles. Traction and inflammatory headaches are symptoms of other disorders, ranging from stroke to sinus infection. Like other types of pain, headaches can serve as warning signals of more serious disorders. This is particularly true for headaches caused by inflammation, including those related to meningitis as well as those resulting from diseases of the sinuses, spine, neck, ears, and teeth. The most common type of primary headache (not caused by another medical condition) is migraine. Migraine headaches are usually characterized by severe pain on one or both sides of the head, an upset stomach, and, at times, disturbed vision. Women are more likely than men to have migraine headaches.

Source: NINDS (NIH)4

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Almost everyone has had a headache. Headache is the most common form of pain. It's a major reason people miss days at work or school or visit the doctor.

The most common type of headache is a tension headache. Tension headaches are due to tight muscles in your shoulders, neck, scalp and jaw. They are often related to stress, depression or anxiety. You are more likely to get tension headaches if you work too much, don't get enough sleep, miss meals, or use alcohol.

Other common types of headaches include migraines, cluster headaches, and sinus headaches. Most people can feel much better by making lifestyle changes, learning ways to relax and taking pain relievers.

Not all headaches require a doctor's attention. But sometimes headaches warn of a more serious disorder. Let your health care provider know if you have sudden, severe headaches. Get medical help right away if you have a headache after a blow to your head, or if you have a headache along with a stiff neck, fever, confusion, loss of consciousness, or pain in the eye or ear.

NIH: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

Source: MedLinePlus (NIH)5

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Most of us get headaches from time to time. Some are mild. Others cause throbbing pain. They can last for minutes or days. There are many different types of headaches. How you treat yours depends on which kind you have.

Source: NIH News in Health (NIH)6

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Headache: Pain in various parts of the head, not confined to the area of distribution of any nerve.7

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Headache: The symptom of Pain in the cranial region. It may be an isolated benign occurrence or manifestation of a wide variety of Headache Disorders.8

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Headache: Cephalgia, or pain sensed in various parts of the head, not confined to the area of distribution of any nerve.

Headache is one of the most common types of recurrent pain as well as one of the most frequent symptoms in neurology. In addition to occasional headaches, there are well-defined headache disorders that vary in incidence, prevalence and duration and can be divided into two broad categories. In secondary headache disorders, headaches are attributed to another condition, such as brain tumour or head injury; for the primary disorders the headache is not due to another condition.9

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Headache: The symptom of PAIN in the cranial region. It may be an isolated benign occurrence or manifestation of a wide variety of HEADACHE DISORDERS.10

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Headache is a pain characterized by a pain in the head.11

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Headache adverse event: A pain adverse event that has an outcome of headache12

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References

  1. Source: NIH News in Health (NIH): newsinhealth.nih.gov/ 2008/ June/ docs/ 01features_02.htm
  2. Source: NINDS (NIH): ninds.nih.gov/ disorders/ headache/ detail_headache.htm
  3. Source: New Zealand Health: health.govt.nz/ your-health/ conditions-and-treatments/ diseases-and-illnesses
  4. Source: NINDS (NIH): ninds.nih.gov/ disorders/ headache/ headache.htm
  5. Source: MedLinePlus (NIH): medlineplus.gov/ headache.html
  6. Source: NIH News in Health (NIH): newsinhealth.nih.gov/ issue/ mar2014/ feature2
  7. Source: NCI Thesaurus
  8. Source: MeSH (U.S. National Library of Medicine)
  9. Source: Human Phenotype Ontology
  10. Source: Monarch Initiative
  11. Source: SYMP Ontology
  12. Source: OAE Ontology

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.