Headaches are perhaps the most common ailments the world over. Anything from a partial tightening on one part of the head, or throbbing ache or pain, or squeezing sensation on any part of the face, forehead or the head, in general, is termed a headache.
About 90% of headaches are harmless and just slightly annoying. In general, headaches can be classified according to their intensity, the position of the pains or aches and also the possible cause.
Causes can range from hunger or overeating to tumors in the brain. This is why it is of utmost importance to know what is responsible for your headaches. As commonplace as they are, a good number of people whose only sign of impending doom was a headache.
Being able to understand the way your body works will be very instrumental in helping you lead a healthier life. A headache could simply be a signal from your body that you are getting dehydrated, or hungry. Can you differentiate these from the warning that you might be suffering from a possibly fatal condition?
Let’s take a look at the various types and causes of a headache.
Types of Headaches and Their Causes
There are three main classifications with a good number of examples under each. They are the primary, secondary and the cranial or life-threatening headaches. Just like the classifications, these types are based on the severity and the potential cause.
These are headaches that can be treated with simple home remedies and over the counter drugs. Most times they simply taper off with time. They are the commonest types of headaches. Causes of a primary headache include over-activity and also pain-sensitivity of certain structures in the head. A headache could also be caused by brain chemistry, muscles in the head, as well as even blood vessels round the skull. Similarly, genetics play a role in certain situations.
Primary headaches include
- Cluster headaches
- Tension migrheadaches
To a lesser degree, and much less common are the following headaches:
- Cough headaches
- Sex headaches
- Chronic daily headaches
These headaches though termed as primary could sometimes need serious medical attention or portent more serious issues.
Other common causes of primary headaches are alcohol, certain foods, posture, stress, sleep deprivation and hunger.
SECONDARY HEADACHES: This type of headache is caused by diseases capable of activating the pain-sensitive nerves in the brain. They need to be closely monitored sometimes as they could easily get debilitating. A secondary headache could be caused by any of the following;
- Sinus infection
- Brain aneurysm
- Intracranial hematoma
- Ear infection
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Blood clotting
- Brain tumor
- Abuse of pain pill
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The broad classes of headaches can be further discussed as individual types of headaches.
With about 70% of the body made up of water, a headache is a potential warning of shortage of fluids. Depending on how much water you need, the severity of a dehydration headache is variable. Other symptoms of dehydration include dizziness, reduced urination, and fatigue. A steady intake of adequate quantities of water can be used in treating dehydration.
A Tension headache feels like a dull throbbing pain around the head. It gives a sensation like a tight band around the skull. Emotional stress, tight muscles or depression could be one of the reasons for this common headache. Relief comes over with time and can be handled with hot and cold treatment, relaxation and over the counter meds,
Strenuous physical activities can bring these on fast. If exercising causes a headache you might want to reduce the intensity of your workouts. Over the counter meds can also handle this situation, but if symptoms persist see a physician.
While suffering from a cold, a headache isn’t too far below the surface. Over 60% of people with a cold also have a headache as part of their symptoms. Cytokines released to help your body fight a cold are also responsible for causing headaches. Treatment might include over the counter cold meds. Above all, plenty of rest and fluid intake is essential.
An abscess is a serious condition due to a bacterial or fungal infection. The resulting sac of pus forms in brain tissue and the main symptom is a headache. Due to their rarity, an abscess cannot be treated with laxity. There might be a gradual increase in pain felt in the particular spot until treated with antibiotics or invasive methods.
Seasonal allergy headaches
If you experience headaches consistently with the onset of a particular season, you might suffer a seasonal allergy. A change in the environment that comes with every season, particularly the rainy or harmattan season cause allergies. Pollen, mold, dust and a myriad of other irritants are responsible for the allergy symptoms. Most allergies come with itchy eyes, nasal congestion, sneezing and intense general headaches. An over-the-counter antihistamine medication should help manage allergies.
Incredibly, too much sleep could cause headaches. Scientists have not yet conclusively discovered the reason for a sleep-induced headache. Seems like it is due to altered neurotransmitters. It is advisable to maintain a regular sleep pattern. Sleep level alterations for weekends or holidays might not always go as planned.
Caffeine withdrawal headaches
How well do you enjoy your morning shot of coffee? Seems you’d find it really hard to kick the habit if you are a coffee junkie. Caffeine withdrawal comes with its own brand of headaches. A throbbing headache because of rebounding blood vessels could last for days of caffeine withdrawal. Certainly, another cup of coffee could temporarily fix the problem, but what happens when there is no coffee available?
Intense throbbing pains at the side of the head coupled with nausea and vomiting point towards a migraine onset. Stress, food allergies, genes and the weather could cause migraines. A frequent migraine might require medical attention.
Having one too many glasses of wine would inevitably result in a banging head. Although, a lot of that depends on your level of tolerance and how hydrated you are. The fatigue and nausea that accompany a hangover headache might, however, be a good reason not to indulge so much in the future.