Common Medical Conditions

Headache: Causes and Types

Written by
Dr. Manu Wilfred
and medically reviewed by Dr. Sneha Kannan

Published on Jan 03, 2018 and last reviewed on Apr 13, 2019   -  2 min read

Abstract

Abstract

Here is a short article on the different causes of headache.

Headache: Causes and Types

Headache is one of the most common complaints for which patients seek medical attention. The underlying cause could be neurological, ENT-related, systemic diseases or idiopathic (cause not known).

Causes of Headache

  1. Tension-type.
  2. Migraine.
  3. Cluster type.
  4. Sinusitis.
  5. Systemic infection.
  6. Head injury.
  7. Vascular disorders.
  8. Tumors.

How to Differentiate?

The first step is to differentiate serious from benign headaches. Some of the symptoms that suggest a serious underlying disease are as follows:

  • Sudden onset headache.
  • Worst ever headache.
  • Vomiting before headache.
  • Pain interfering with sleep.
  • Headache with fever.
  • Patient above the age of 55.

Location of Pain

Sometimes, the site of the pain can give us a clue to the diagnosis, like temporal region in temporal arteritis, facial pain in sinusitis, etc.

Duration of Pain

The duration of the headache becomes important like in instant onset (ruptured aneurysm), cluster headache (three to five-minute peak), and migraine (peak pain over minutes to hours).

Diagnosis

Complete neurological and ENT examination help suspect some of the common causes of headache. In the examination, if abnormal findings are encountered, then imaging investigations are undertaken (CT/ MRI). Lumbar puncture becomes important if meningitis or encephalitis is suspected. A psychological state assessment of the patient might be needed if there is suspicion of depression.

Common types

Migraine - Typically one-sided, increased by movement, lasts for hours to days, associated with nausea or vomiting, photophobia, phonophobia, and relieved by sleep. A family history is usually present. Most patients do not complain of auras (visual zig zags). Various trigger factors like alcohol intake, lack of sleep, loud sounds, glare, and travel are implicated in the precipitation of a migraine. It is important to identify these, as avoidance constitutes an important step in the management of migraine.

Tension-type - Bilateral location, lasts hours to days, a tight band-like sensation around the head, and often precipitated by stress. Relaxation therapy can be helpful to prevent attacks.

Cluster headache- Attacks occur in clusters. Unilateral and associated with pain behind eyes, running nose, and watering from eyes. It is a rare form of a headache, and recurrence is characteristic. Alcohol and smoking may provoke an attack.

For more information consult a headaches and migraines specialist online --> https://www.icliniq.com/ask-a-doctor-online/general-medicine-physician/headaches-and-migraines

Last reviewed at:
13 Apr 2019  -  2 min read

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Related Questions & Answers


Can a migraine and a tension-type headache coexist?

Query: Hello doctor, In short, I have a baby who is now 9 months old. I have started having a visual aura (fortification spectrum) and migraine around two months ago. The aura was almost always on the left side of the vision and the headache (which was quite mild), was on the right side of my head, at the ...  Read Full >>


Answer: Hello, Welcome to icliniq.com. This looks like it is related to a subconscious anxiety and stress. It does not look like a migraine. However, the aura and the previous headache are classical of a migraine. A migraine and tension-type headache can co-exist. As your baby is 9 m...  Read Full

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Dr. Anshul Varshney
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Answer: Hi, Welcome to icliniq.com. We are here to help you. This is called as tension type headache and is a part of anxiety only. Stopping any antidepressant is usually a difficult task and is usually accompanied by one or other symptoms as withdrawal. It should be stopped once you have been doing well w...  Read Full

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Query: Hello doctor, I am a 22 year old female. I have always suffered from migraines. Recently, it seems like it has been getting worse. Last year, I gave birth to my son vaginally. Now, when I lay on my abdomen or even turn my head, I notice a heartbeat sound in my ear. My nurse practitioner thought it ...  Read Full >>


Dr. Sadaf Mustafa
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Answer: Hello, Welcome to icliniq.com. Do you feel like the throbbing or pulsating sensation in your ear becomes worse with the headaches or it is present even with no migraine? I would also like you to explain your headache in a bit of detail. What are the triggers? Are they one-sided or on both sides? Is ...  Read Full

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