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There are several kinds of headaches. One of the most common kinds of headaches is a tension headache. In this condition, you feel pain in your head, scalp or neck. Usually there is muscle tightness in these locations. Inflammation also can cause a tension headache. This inflammation can be caused by something as serious as a stroke or as common as a sinus infection.
A tension headache can affect peopole of any age, but they are more often seen in adults and adolescents.
Tension headaches can last from several minutes to several days. It can be brought about by stress, fatigue, noise or glare (such as from a computer screen). Tension headaches are often caused by holding the head in one position for a long time without moving. Sleeping in a cold room or with your neck in an odd position can also bring about tension headaches.
- Alcohol use
- Caffeine: Either too much or withdrawal from caffeine
- Colds and flu
- Eye strain
- Nasal congestion
- Sinus infection
- Sleep apnea
Signs of a tension headache include:
- Dull pressure
- Feeling of a tight band around the head
- Pain all over (not just in one location)
- Hurts most in the scalp, temples or back of neck
- Trouble sleeping
Another type of headache is vascular. Vascular headaches include migraine and cluster headaches. These cause repeated episodes of pain.
A migraine is a type of vascular headache. A migraine is a severe headache, often described as throbbing pain in a particular area of the head. Women are more likely to have migraine headaches than men.
Migraines are thought to be caused by genes that control the way certain brain cells behave. When you have a migraine, you are very sensitive to light and sound. You may become nauseated and vomit.
Some people feel signs of an upcoming migraine such as seeing flashes of light or jagged lines. Others report a temporary loss of vision before a migraine starts.
Migraines can be brought on by factors including:
- Stress or anxiety
- Lack of sleep
- Lack of food
- Exposure to light
- Hormonal changes (in women)
- Barometric pressure change
If you have a headache at least three times a month, your doctor will likely prescribe preventive treatment. If you get migraines, your doctor can prescribe medicines to prevent and relieve them.
Some headaches indicate a more serious condition. You should call your doctor immediately if you experience any of the following symptoms:
- Sudden, severe headache
- Sudden headache accompanied by a stiff neck
- Headache accompanied by fever, convulsions or loss of consciousness or confusion
- Headache following a blow to the head
- Headache related to pain in the eye or ear
- Recurring headache in a child
Yet another type of headache is a cluster headache.
Common treatments include:
- Drug therapy
- Stress reduction
- Changing diet
- Regular exercise, especially swimming or rapid walking
Known risk factors for migraines include:
- Age: Most people who get migraines experience them before age 40.
- Gender: More women than men get migraines (starting at puberty).
- Family history of migraines
- Race: White people are at higher risk of having migraines than African-Americans or Asians.