What Are The Causes And Types Of Headache?

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Headache is one of the most common health complaints in the society. Approximately 49% of the general population may experience headache due to various reasons. Headache is a discomfort that is seen in everyone regardless of age, gender and race and reduces the quality of life. While most headaches do not pose serious health risks, some cases are much more severe and may indicate another underlying disease.

What Is Headache?

Pain in any part of the head is called headache and this is a complaint that every person experiences for a while in their lives. The development, location and severity of headache varies from person to person. While 96% of headache cases show a benign character such as stress, anxiety, intense work tempo and insufficient water consumption; In the remaining cases, vital conditions may be in question.

Types Of Headache

Headache is divided into 14 main groups and hundreds of subgroups. Basically, conditions such as being caused by another underlying health problem or developing directly as a headache are distinctive. The most common headache types in the society include tension-type, cluster and migraine headaches.

Headache types can be analysed as follows:

Primary Headache

Primary headache can be mentioned in the absence of an underlying disease and if the pain is a direct headache. This type of pain often occurs as migraine, tension type and cluster.

Secondary Headache

Secondary headaches, which constitute 10% of total headache cases, are caused by diseases such as cerebrovascular diseases, brain tumours, eye diseases, meningitis and sinusitis.

Cluster Headache

Cluster headaches are a type of headache that typically presents with pain behind the eye. Other symptoms that may occur include tearing and runny nose. The pain is not throbbing and occurs on one side of the face. Once it starts, it can last for a long time, usually up to 6 weeks.

Vertebrae With Abnormal Structure

As a result of abnormal development of the cervical vertebrae, the special curve in this area may disappear and neck flattening may occur.


Migraine, which is quite serious, usually occurs with throbbing pain on one side of the head. In migraine cases, the pain increases with light, sound and noise; some cases are accompanied by symptoms such as nausea and vomiting.

Tension Type Headache

Tension-type pain, which is one of the most common headaches, is usually caused by stress and fatigue. In this type of pain, the pain usually develops by squeezing around the head.

Thunder Headache

Sudden thunder-type pain is severe and insidious. In these pains that occur suddenly and continue for an average of 5-10 minutes, especially problems with blood vessels are suspected. Therefore, urgent intervention is important.

In addition to these; headaches of different characters can be observed in cases such as intense exercise, excessive fatigue, stress, nerves, tension and high blood pressure.

Although not all headaches are serious, emergency medical intervention may be vital if the following symptoms are observed:

  • Constant and increasingly severe pain
  • Severe pain that occurs suddenly
  • Pain that wakes you from sleep
  • The person who has a headache for the first time is under 10 years old and over 50 years old
  • Pain that does not respond to treatment and changes shape
  • High fever
  • Neck stiffness
  • Light sensitivity, nausea and vomiting
  • Being described as the most severe pain ever experienced and increasing in intensity during heavy physical activities

If you experience one or more of the above factors, you should contact a specialist immediately.

Causes of Headache

The cause of headache depends on the underlying disease state and the type of headache. For example; secondary headaches are usually caused by different underlying diseases and allergic reactions. An increase in headache cases is observed especially in the spring months with seasonal transitions. Many diseases such as vascular occlusion, tumour, sinusitis, high blood pressure, ear infections and flu are effective in the development of secondary headache.

In addition, conditions such as the following can also cause headache:

  • Low water consumption
  • Prolonged fasting
  • Overexertion
  • Eye disorders
  • Stress and tension
  • Menstrual period
  • Pregnancy
  • Brain tumours
  • Pressure changes
  • Insufficient and poor quality sleep
  • Long-term use of painkillers
  • Severe bumps and traumas
  • Infectious diseases such as meningitis, cold, flu, influenza, encephalitis

Headache Treatment Methods

Headaches are treated in a multifaceted way, with the underlying cause being the main determinant of treatment. If the headache is caused by a problem such as sinus, flu, or cold, the treatment is initially aimed at improving these diseases. With the improvement of these health problems, the headache complaint also disappears over time. In addition, a multidisciplinary treatment method can be followed in primary type headaches and especially in migraine cases. For this, in addition to the patient’s history, neurological findings are evaluated and appropriate treatment is started accordingly.

There are many medications used in the treatment of headaches. The main goal in migraine treatment is to reduce the factors that trigger pain and eliminate sensitivity. For this, medications that suppress the nervous system and reduce sensitivity to environmental factors such as light and sound are used. Depending on the severity and frequency of pain in the patient, an attack-preventing or protective treatment plan can be drawn up. It may be preferable to plan an attack treatment in cases where the number of attacks is low, while a protective treatment in which the patient takes medication every day can be started in more frequent and severe attacks. These drugs can be from different groups, such as heart medications, epilepsy medications, and depression medications.

Simple pain relievers are effective in relieving milder attacks. The medication that a person with a headache will use is prescribed with the recommendation of a physician and is evaluated on a case-by-case basis. For this reason, it is important not to use uncontrolled medication and not to go outside the doctor’s recommendation in cases. Since the continuous use of some drugs can cause complications in other internal organs, such as the kidneys, it is not recommended.

In addition to these, different alternative treatment methods to relieve headache are also applied today. To give an example of these;

  • Acupuncture for migraines,
  • Biofeedback for tension-type pain,
  • Aromatherapy for chronic pain, breathing exercises, supplements containing magnesium and riboflavin.

How Does Headache Pass?

Although there are numerous treatment methods for headache, it is generally known that making various healthy life changes prevents the risk of headache. These measures are listed as follows:

  • Eliminating the factors that trigger headache is important to prevent the problem. Generally, if the pain occurs at a certain time of the day or after a certain activity, it is necessary to make changes in these factors.
  • Limiting alcohol and especially red wine consumption reduces the risk of headache.
  • Foods containing nitrates cause headaches. Chocolate and processed meat are among the processed foods included in this group. These types of eating habits should be replaced with natural and healthy habits.
  • Prolonging sleep time and having a quality sleep prevents the risk of headache during the day.
  • Drinking insufficient water or nutrition can be one of the factors that trigger headache.
  • Looking at the screen for a long time tires the eyes and causes headache, so it is necessary to rest after using the phone and computer.
  • Learning to cope with stress is effective in headache control and improving quality of life.

Headache treatment differs from patient to patient and the underlying causes must first be identified in order to develop the appropriate treatment method. Therefore, in case of headache, a doctor’s control is required to determine the underlying cause and to develop the appropriate treatment method.

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