A headache is a pain in any area of the head or neck. It can be a sharp, dull, or a throbbing ache. Headaches come suddenly, last hours sometimes days. The most common types of headaches are:
Cluster – These appear suddenly and affect men more than women. A common symptom is a severe debilitating pain on one side of the head. Sufferers also often have watery eyes and a runny nose or some nasal congestion. Another common symptom is restlessness during the headache. Sufferers don’t feel able to lie down or get comfortable. It is not exactly known what causes cluster headaches, but some researchers believe they could be genetic.
Migraine – These headaches can be genetic and can last up to a week. They often come with a throbbing sensation on one side of the head. Pain can be so severe that a sufferer will be unable to participate in normal activities. The sufferer often feels nauseous and will sometimes vomit. They may also be sensitive to light and sound. Some migraines are precipitated by an aura. Auras can be visual, taste or sound sensations.
Tension – These headaches can be caused by stress and/or muscular tension. People with tension headaches often experience a dull non-throbbing pain and tightness of the scalp or neck. This type of headache also can be a symptom of depression.
Sinus – When the sinus becomes inflamed, it often is due to an infection or an allergy. Sinus symptoms can include blocked or congested nasal passages, pain on either side of the face radiating up to the head, and, of course, a headache. Some sinus sufferers also have allergies. These can be controlled by antihistamines, which also reduce the severity of infections.
Chronic daily headaches often are a symptom of a sinus condition or an allergy. Coughing also can cause headaches.
Exercise headaches can be related to muscular strain or over exercising.
Headaches during or after sex should be investigated as they can be a symptom of heart or other medical conditions.
Some primary headaches can be triggered by lifestyle factors, including:
Alcohol, particularly red wine
Certain foods, such as processed meats that contain nitrates
Changes in sleep or lack of sleep
When to seek emergency care
Some headaches may result from lifestyle factors. But sudden and serious headaches can indicate a serious medical condition, like a stroke, meningitis or encephalitis. If you have the worst headache of your life, go to an emergency room or call your local emergency number. This would be a sudden, severe headache or a headache accompanied by:
Confusion or trouble understanding speech
High fever, greater than 39 C (102F) to 40C (104F)
Numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of your body
Nausea or vomiting with no known cause