A headache can be a hindrance to any person at any time. It can either occur on left or right side in case of a migraine, be isolated to a point or radiate across the entire head. The pain can be sharp, throbbing or dull. It can either develop gradually or suddenly and can last for few hours to several days. Headaches need not arise due to a factor or condition of or in the head alone, they can be triggered because of other disorders or diseases in the body.
What are the different causes of a headache?
There are different kinds of headaches. Based on the symptoms, a doctor can diagnose the causes and the best treatment option for it. Not all headaches indicate serious illness. On the other hand, some headaches can be life-threatening as well. Primarily headaches can be divided into two broad categories- a primary headache and secondary headaches.
- Primary headaches: A primary headache is caused due to conditions or factors associated with the pain-sensitive structures of the head. These types of headaches do not result from underlying illness. Muscles of the neck and head, blood vessels and chemical activity in and around the skull are the reason for primary headaches. Even certain genes could be responsible for triggering the pain. Some of the types of primary headaches include a cluster headache, tension headache, migraine, paroxysmal hemicrania etc. There could be primary headaches that last for a very long time such as sex headaches, cough headaches, chronic migraine, hemicranias continua etc. Typically, primary headaches are often triggered by poor posture, alcohol, lack of sleep, irregular food timings, processed meats etc.
- Secondary headaches: Secondary headaches are the symptoms of a disease that can activate the pain-sensitive nerves of the head. The severity of the pain varies greatly. Some of the possible causes of secondary headaches include arterial tears, acute sinusitis, brain aneurysm, brain tumour, dehydration, ear infection, carbon monoxide poisoning, dental problems, glaucoma, hangovers, flu, hypertension, stroke, panic attacks, toxoplasmosis, post-concussion syndrome, trigeminal neuralgia, monosodium glutamate, meningitis, giant cell arteritis etc. Some of the common triggers of secondary headaches include ice cream headaches, compression headaches, thunderclap headaches, sinus headaches, rebound headaches, spinal headaches etc.
When to seek emergency care for headaches?
Headaches could indicate serious disorders such as encephalitis, stroke or meningitis. It is advisable to seek immediate medical care for an unbearable headache which also includes the inability to understand speech, stiff neck, trouble in vision, vomiting accompanied with nausea, trouble in speaking, high body temperature, greater than 104°F. A doctor should be consulted if the pain occurs multiple times in a short duration, keeps one from working or performing daily activities, the pain doesn’t improve even after the consumption of over the counter medicine and disturbs sleeping.
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