Types of Headaches

Headaches Types

There are many types of headaches, and the International Headache Classification (ICHD) defines more than 150 different types of headaches, and the causes and symptoms of different headaches vary. Although most headache attacks are short-lived, correctly identifying the type of headache can help with subsequent better treatment. This article lists 11 common types of headaches, take a look at them together, and be aware of them.


The nature of migraine is mainly a severe pulsating headache on one side. Patients may be sensitive to light, sound, and smell, and nausea and vomiting are common. Migraines tend to recur, and each episode may last for 3 days, which may be true for many people. Although migraine can occur in adults and children, the prevalence of women is three times that of men; the frequency of migraine attacks can range from several times a week to once a year.

About one-third of patients have an aura before the onset of migraine, mainly visual and sensory disturbances, usually lasting 5 to 60 minutes. Common visual auras include jagged lines, flashing spots or dark spots, and partial loss of vision; Other harbingers include limb numbness and difficulty in speech.

The cause of migraine is not clear but tends to show a tendency to familial aggregation, which is also more common in patients with pre-existing depression or epilepsy. Triggering factors for migraine may include stress and anxiety, sleep disruption, hormonal changes, skipping a meal, dehydration, bright light of some foods and drugs, and loud noise.

Over-the-counter painkillers help to reduce pain and duration, and antiemetics such as metoclopramide or ondansetron can also be used to relieve nausea and vomiting. In addition, resting in a dark, quiet place, placing ice packs or cold cloth on the forehead can also help alleviate migraine attacks. For more refractory migraine, triptan can be more helpful. Once the symptoms of migraine begin to appear, the patient should take the drug as soon as possible to achieve the best results.

Chronic migraine patients need prophylactic treatment. Alternative drugs include topiramate, propranolol, and amitriptyline. Other treatment options, such as dietary supplements, meditation, acupuncture, and neuromodulation therapy can also help.

Tension headache

Tension headaches are very common and are characterized by persistent dull pain on both sides. Other symptoms may include tenderness on the face, head and neck and shoulders, pressure on the back of the eye, and sensitivity to light and sound. Headaches usually last from 30 minutes to several hours, and the severity may vary, but rarely affects normal activity.

The cause of tension headaches is unclear, but stress, anxiety, and Depression 403 are common triggers. Other potential triggers include dehydration, loud noise, lack of exercise, poor sleep, poor posture, skipping a meal, and eye strain.

Over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen, are very effective in relieving pain. In addition, lifestyle changes can also help prevent tension headaches, including improved sleep, regular exercise and stretching, improved sitting and standing postures, and management of stress, anxiety or Depression 403.

Cluster headache

Cluster headaches are a type of severe headache that often occurs, and male patients are six times more likely to be women. Patients often describe this pain as a strong burning or stinging sensation behind the eyes or around the eyes. Other symptoms include tearing, swelling of the eyelids, stuffy nose, sensitivity to light or sound, irritability or agitation.

The onset of cluster headaches is usually sudden and has no aura, lasting 15 minutes to 3 hours. Patients may experience up to 8 attacks per day. The onset of cluster headaches is often a series of daily attacks that last for weeks or months, usually at the same time of day, often occurring several hours after falling asleep at night.

The cause of cluster headaches is still unknown, but it seems more likely to occur in smokers. In addition, alcohol intake should be avoided during the episode. Specific treatments are primarily designed to reduce the severity and frequency of attacks. Topiramate, triptans, verapamil, steroids, melatonin, oxygen therapy, and lithium agents are all options. In cases of extremely refractory conditions, patients may require surgery.

Forced headache

Headaches caused by intense physical activity can be induced by running, jumping, lifting heavy objects, sexual behavior, coughing or sneezing. These headaches are usually very short-lived, but can sometimes last for 2 days, mainly as a pulsating headache throughout the head, and are more common in patients with a family history of migraine.

Most episodes of this type of headache can be treated with over-the-counter painkillers. Taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) or a beta blocker before exercise helps prevent the onset of headaches, just like warm-up exercises.

Sleep headache

Sleep headache is a rare headache. The patient usually shows symptoms for the first time around the age of 50. This headache, like an alarm clock, wakes up the patient at night. The cause of this headache is currently unclear and there are no known triggers.

The nature of this headache is usually mild to moderate pulsating pain in the bilateral head and can last up to 3 hours. Other symptoms may include nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Patients may have several episodes per week. Although this type of headache is relatively harmless, because the age of onset of the patient is usually large, the clinician should be alert to the elderly who have a new headache and carefully evaluate the patient.

The main treatment option for sleep headaches is caffeine, which can take tablets or drink coffee before going to bed. Other drug options include indomethacin, melatonin, and lithium.

Drug overuse headache

Drug overuse headache (MOH) is the most common type of secondary headache. The symptoms are frequent or daily headaches. The nature of the pain is similar to a tension headache or migraine. This headache initially responds to painkillers, but It will reappear after that.

Taking painkillers for more than 15 days a month may result in MOH. Drugs that may cause MOH include opioids, acetaminophen, triptans, and non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (such as aspirin and ibuprofen). Despite the use of these drugs, patients may still experience MOH. However, MOH appears to be mainly present in patients who are treated with painkillers for headaches.

The only treatment for MOH is to stop taking the medicine, and the doctor should supervise the patient's over-medication. Symptoms may worsen after discontinuation of the drug and usually stop within 10 days. Other withdrawal symptoms (such as nausea and vomiting, increased heart rate, sleep disturbance, irritability) usually disappear within 7 days, sometimes for about 3 weeks. Most patients can return to their original headache pattern within 2 months, and it should be safe to start taking painkillers afterward.

In order to avoid the occurrence of MOH, patients should avoid the use of codeine, take painkillers for up to 2 days within a week, and use prophylactic drugs to treat chronic migraine.

Sinus headache

Sinus headache is a type of headache caused by sinusitis, usually the result of an infection or allergy. The symptoms are mainly pulsating dull pain in the eyes, cheeks, and forehead. Pain may worsen during exercise and sometimes spread to the teeth and chin. Headaches are often accompanied by occlusions, nasal purulence, fever, nausea, and sensitivity to light or sound. Sinus headaches are rare. If the patient has no nasal symptoms, headaches of a similar nature are more likely to be a migraine.

A sinus headache can be treated with an over-the-counter pain reliever or a nasal decongestant. If the symptoms do not improve within a week, further treatment may be needed. Depending on whether the patient's sinusitis is infected or allergic, antibiotics or anti-allergic drugs can be prescribed or corticosteroid nasal spray can be used to help reduce swelling.

To clarify the underlying cause of sinusitis, a neurologist can refer a patient to an otolaryngologist. In some cases, the patient may need surgery for drainage.

Caffeine-related headache

A large intake of caffeine (more than 400 mg, about 4 cups of coffee) can sometimes cause headaches. In people who take more than 200 mg of caffeine for more than 2 weeks per day, caffeine withdrawal can also cause migraine-like headaches, usually within 24 hours after a sudden stop of ingestion. Other possible symptoms include fatigue and lack of attention. Concentration, irritability, nausea, etc. These symptoms are usually relieved by caffeine intake for 1 hour or within 7 days of complete withdrawal.

Effects of caffeine bring vary, but reduce the intake can reduce head gout risk. Chronic migraine patients may need to limit caffeine intake.

Head traumatic headache

Mild bumps and impacts in the head and neck are common in everyday life and are usually not a concern, but sometimes headaches may occur immediately after this mild trauma or progress very quickly. The nature of these headaches is often similar to migraine or tension headaches and can be treated with over-the-counter painkillers.

However, if the patient develops unconsciousness, seizures, vomiting, memory loss, confusion, vision or hearing problems after a head injury, or if the headache persists or worsens, the further diagnosis should be made to determine the cause.

In addition, traumatic headaches can occur months after the initial head injury, and sometimes daily, for up to 1 year. Such conditions may be difficult to diagnose in clinical practice.

Menstrual-related headache

Headaches are usually associated with changes in hormone levels. For female patients, migraine is usually associated with the menstrual cycle due to natural changes in estrogen levels. Menstrual-related headaches can occur during menstruation or before menstruation, or during ovulation. Symptoms are similar in nature to migraine without aura but last longer or more severely. In addition, hormone-related headaches may also be caused by oral contraceptives, menopause, pregnancy, and the like.

Treatment of menstrual-related headaches is similar to treatment without aura migraine, during which time triptans and NSAIDs can be used to relieve headaches. In addition, doctors can use hormone therapy, other methods to replace oral contraceptives, and menopausal hormone replacement therapy.

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