Types of Headaches

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches, which an approximate 29.5 million people in the United States suffer from, usually begin as a dull ache which develops into a constant, throbbing and pulsating pain. This pain is usually felt at the temples, as well as the front or back of one side of the head. Migraine pain is usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise. Migraine attacks can be completely disabling, but sometimes are mild. The two most prevalent types of migraine are migraine with aura and migraine without aura. Sufferers who experience migraine with aura generally see wavy or jagged lines, dots or flashing lights, tunnel vision or blind spots from five to thirty minutes prior to the onset of the headache.[1] Migraines may be episodic (fewer than 15 times per month) or chronic (15 or more days per month). People who believe they may be experiencing migraine headaches should contact a physician to help relieve the pain and prevent future attacks.

Tension-type Headaches

Tension-type headaches, the most common of all headaches, are caused by the tightening of the muscles at the back of the neck, of the face and scalp. Tension type headaches can occur episodically (fewer than 15 times per month) or chronically (15 or more days per month for at least 3 months).[2] People with frequent episodic headaches are at a higher risk of developing chronic headaches. An episodically occurring tension-type headache can usually be eased or eliminated with an over-the-counter medication. A chronic tension-type headache should be discussed with a doctor. Chronic tension-type headaches may be the result of stress or fatigue, but more than likely, they can be due to physical problems, psychological issues, or depression.[1]

Cluster Headaches

A cluster headache, the most severe and intense type of headache, gets its name because the attacks come in groups or bunches. Cluster headaches come about with little or no warning. Cluster headaches typically occur at the same time each day for several weeks, until the “cluster period” is over.[3] During a cluster period it is important to stay calm and contact your doctor.

It is estimated that less than one percent of the population suffer from cluster headaches, and they occur more frequently in men than in women. Most often, cluster headache attacks occur during the morning or late at night.

Menstrual Migraines

Menstrual migraines are a type of headache experienced only by women. They have the same characteristics as migraines, but are often more severe and it is more difficult to attain relief from them. According to Dr. Frederick R. Jelovsek (Professor, East Tennessee State University, James H. Quillen College of Medicine), nearly 14% of women experience menstrual migraines.[4] Menstrual headaches are associated with changing estrogen levels and frequently occur between the 2nd day before the start of menstruation and the end of the menstruation cycle, pregnancy, and menopause.[5]

Sinus Headaches

Pain from a sinus headache is usually felt in the cheekbones, bridge of the nose, or forehead. This pain will intensify with sudden head movement or straining, and the pain is accompanied by other sinus symptoms. To clarify a common misconception, allergies are not the cause of sinus headaches. Allergies can cause sinus congestion, which can lead to headache pain, but the treatment for an allergy is not effective in relieving the headache pain. Generally, the allergy and the headache must be treated separately and a doctor should be seen to ensure proper treatment.[6]

Medication Overuse Headaches

Medication overuse headaches (also known as rebound headaches) are headaches which occur on a daily or near daily basis, and are caused by taking too much medicine. Often, over-the-counter pain medicines are the culprit, but prescription medications, or even caffeine can cause this type of headache.

Chronic Daily Headache

Chronic daily headaches are just that: headaches which occur on a daily or near daily basis. This category may include other chronic headache disorders such as chronic migraine, chronic tension type headache, medication overuse headache, and other headache conditions as well. It can be difficult to diagnose correctly.

Who suffers more? Men vs. Women →

Talk to your doctor about the headache pain you are experiencing for a proper diagnosis, or contact me to set up a migraine consultation.

Phone: 646.648.3793

E-mail: drhalpern@audreyhalpernmd.com

1. www.headaches.org/educational_modules/completeguide/tension2.html

2. www.mayoclinic.com/health/tension-headache/DS00304/DSECTION=symptoms

3. www.familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/common/brain/disorders/035.html

4. www.www.wdxcyber.com/ngen03.htm

5. www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/guide/hormones-headaches

6. www.webmd.com/migraines-headaches/guide/sinus-headaches