All you need to know about headaches : Causes, Forms and Symptoms

Headaches generally refer to any symptom of pain the head and/or neck region. Find all you need to know about them in this article. Knowledge they say is power. With enough information on headaches, won’t you know what to do next time it hits?

1. What Cause Headaches ?

Almost all of us have at some point had a headache. In some people it is so common that they can even work through them. The World Health Organisation reported that last year more than half of all the adults experienced headaches. So what causes headaches? The following are the major causes:
  • Stress: emotional distress caused by several factors is the leading cause of headaches. Most people can actually tell they are stressed if they experience headaches after overthinking or after emotional experiences.
  • Medical disorders: some health conditions among them high blood pressure, anxiety and depression are known causes of headaches. Dental pathology such as caries, cervical spine anomalies, such as cervical spondylosis, insufficient sleep, arterial hypertension, sinusitis, otitis, fever, untreated vision disorders, carbon monoxide poisoning, allergic manifestations such as rhinitis, fibromyalgia, menstrual periods, neurological abnormalities such as a cerebral tumor, stroke, meningitis are all headache causes.
  • Environmental causes: environmental extremities are also known to cause headaches. This explains why some people suffer from headaches after long hours of exposure to the sun or to very low températures.

2. What Are the Symptoms of Headaches ? 

Headaches occur alone in most instances. Associated symptoms are however very telling in identifying the cause and even type of headache. These symptoms include:
  • Neck stiffness and neck pains
  • Blurry vision
  • Fever
  • Increased sensitivity to light and noise
  • Nausea and vomiting
In severe causes of symptoms such as difficulty in speaking, excessive sleepiness, confusion and difficulty walking have been noted.

3. Headaches Forms

Headaches are classified into various forms depending on where their effects are felt. The forms include :

a) Headaches on top of the head: when a headache is on top of the head, it is likely to be a symptom of a tension headache. this form is the most common of headaches. The pains are mostly located on top on both sides of the head and give this curious impression of having the head caught in a vise. They are caused by strong tension in the muscles of the neck, scalp and face. Tension headaches are mostly caused by either hunger, lack of sleep or even stress.

Tension headaches are episodic or chronic. Their chronicity is often linked to drug abuse. Psychological factors are also to be sought systematically, as they can promote the chronicity of headaches. 

b) Frontal headaches: they are characterised by tension or pressure around the forehead area. Most tension headaches, they can be eased by resting or taking pain relief medication.

c) Headache behind the eye: the pain is felt remotely behind the eyes. This kind of headache is sometimes caused by focusing your eyes on something for too long. Most people using computers for long hours are known to have this specific kind. They can be avoided by wearing specific glasses for the task at hand. They can also be avoided by taking periodic breaks in the event of a task that demands a lot from the eye focus.

d) Throbbing headaches: this form of headache is subjective. Different persons will experience it can be sharp in one person and dull in the other. The pain comes in pulses such that one would think it is coming from the blood stream or the heart. They are caused by different tings among them caffeine withdrawals, hangovers and even migraines.
Often associated with a pounding, throbbing headaches are known to affect persons of all age groups.

4. Types Of Headaches

There are about 100 different forms of headaches. The different types are derived from their causes. Those types include: 


1) Mild headaches: Mild headaches are caused by pain or irritation to the head. Once the pain sensing structures of the head detect pain, a headache might be on its way. This is the kind of headache we get when we bang our heads on cabinet doors.

2) Frequent headaches: As the name suggests, these are headaches that occur frequently. They may be of any other time but occurring at a frequent rate. In cases of a very high rate of frequency, theses headaches can escalate to chronic headaches. Frequent headaches often require medical attention to detect any underlying disorders.

3) Sinus headaches: This is an uncommon type of headache caused by the inflammation of the sinuses. Sinuses are air spaces in the nasal passages that aid mucus secretion and air humidification.
Inflammation of the sinuses is mainly caused by allergies and cold. Inflamed sinuses decrease the ability of mucus secretion leading to pressure in the sinuses which in turn cause the headache.
Sinuses headaches are easily avoided by avoiding any allergens that could cause sinuses inflammation.

4) Spinal headaches: They are also known as postdural puncture headache. It is a complication of needle insertion to the subarachnoid space through the dural sac. The needle causes pressure. Fluctuation in the pressure caused by the needle is what causes the headache. This type of headache is not common. 

5) High blood pressure headaches (tension headaches)These headaches do not have a specific cause. They are generally caused by stress and emotional disorders. Most people have at some point experienced them. The pain is dull and does not keep you from your daily activities.
They are often characterised by tightness and minimum pressure at the back of the head or around the neck area. This type of headache is not generic. It comes from a number of things like lacking enough rest, low iron levels, bad posture and fatigue among others. They mainly start later in the day after the body has been subjected to couple of factors like a lot of work.
Cases of chronic headaches usually occur for 60- 90 days.
Treatment for these headaches is usually more of resting and taking a short break and in chronic cases requires pain relief medication.

6) Cervicogenic headache: This is a secondary headache. This basically means it is caused by another infection or illness. It is usually caused by a neck disorder or a lesion.
The pain in the head is therefore isn’t truly in the head but is referred to the head by the neck. Treatment for cervicogenic headache is therefore initiated by looking for the actual source of pain. Treatment is then administered to that specific point.

7) Thunderclap headache: As the name suggests, it has a very sudden onset and takes a very short time, usually seconds to minutes, to reach maximum intensity. Also known as lone acute severe headache, it can be indicator of life threatening medical conditions such as subarachnoid haemorrhage.
It is very important for medical check-ups to follow a thunderclap headache to identify the underlying cause as it is life threatening in most cases.

8) Dehydation headache: Dehydration is basically having low water levels in the body. Once the body gets dehydrated, the water loss causes the brain to shrink thus reducing in size. This causes it to move away from the skull. The pain receptors around the brain are triggered by this movement causing a headache.
Blood is majorly made of water. In the event of dehydration, the blood level lowers hence less blood is sent to the head. Less blood translates to lower oxygen levels to the brain which can also trigger the pain receptors.
This type of headache is easily avoidable by ensuring your body is always hydrated by taking enough water and fluids.

9) Sugar headache: hypoglycaemia may manifest big headaches. These in fact translate the lack of supply of sugar to the brain. They can be accentuated if the fall of blood sugar is not countered rapidly.
What to do ? Absorb sugar or a sweetened drink (eg a glass of soda). If headache persists or occurs regularly, you should talk to a doctor.


5. Headaches and Dizziness

Dizziness will have your head spinning and spinning. This is sickening on its own and does not need a headache on top of it. However, it sometimes happens. In most cases, headaches that accompany dizziness are a sign of a migraine. It is therefore important to be keen.
If the dizziness occurs on its own, it could be an indicator of a migraine without a headache. In most cases, dizziness means different thing to different people. It is therefore advisable to seek medical attention in the event of frequent dizziness.

6. Headaches and Pregnancy

In more than one instances, we have had someone say that being pregnant can be a headache. More than often, we take that figuratively and shake our heads and laugh or probably get just a little bit concerned. Pregnancy can however be a headache in every literal sense. Some will tell you the first trimester is the worst.
What causes headaches during pregnancy? This is just about one of the easiest questions to answer. The hormonal changes are the number one causes. Other causes like pregnancy fatigue, hunger during pregnancy and allergies also take their toll. Emotional stress and anxiety especially in new mothers is also a major cause of pregnancy headaches. Sometimes, an expectant mother will be unlucky and have a combination of all these causes beckoning the headache.
Pregnant women are advised to seek medical advice before taking any medication. This is because of the fragility of the life growing in them that also causes their bodies to be reactive and hyper sensitive. They are also advised to rest and spend quiet time to reduce stress and anxiety. Eating regularly and healthy is also highly advisable.

7. Headaches and Nausea

Headaches on their own can be nightmarish enough. It is even worse when they are coupled with nausea. A combination of headache and nausea are commonly caused by migraines. Severe instances could lead to vomiting and sensitivity to light or noise. Migraine headaches can last up to several days and require pain relief medication to ease the pain.

8. Headaches in Children

Children and adolescents are also very prone to headaches. It is therefore important for a parent to pay attention to them. In most cases, headaches in children under 10 years are usually a symptom for an underlying disease or health disorder. Some children have severe cases of chronic headaches that occur daily.
Major causes of headaches in children include stress, anxiety and minor head trauma. Menstruation and stress and/ or anxiety are the leading causes of headaches in adolescents.
Researches indicate that before puberty, headaches are more common in boys, but this tendency reverses after puberty. Adult women experience more headaches than men and these pains are often related to the menstrual cycle. With aging, women and men usually have fewer headaches, and the pains are less intense.
Parents and guardians are advised to pay attention to symptoms and to seek immediate medical attention in case of severe or frequent cases. While children are known to fake headaches to get favours or to even avoid school, parents should be keen enough to know when it’s real.

9. How to Get Rid of Headaches ? Daily Recommendations

You feel that the headache settles? Before you rush on a medication, test these small relaxing gestures that help reduce the headache.
  • Avoiding stressors: after several headaches, most people are able to identify their triggers or stressors. Once you are able to point them out, you can work towards avoiding them completely where possible or reducing interactions with your stressors
  • Drink plenty of water before (in prevention) and during the headache.
  • If you drink alcohol, do not forget to drink water at the same time, to avoid dehydration caused by alcohol and therefore a potential headache.
  • Do not consume more than 10 days a month of analgesics, the latter can indeed lead paradoxically to a headache engendered by the taking of these drugs. This type of headache, functioning as a vicious circle, is then very hard to cure.
  • Eat regular meals: some headaches are as result of imbalanced blood sugar levels. Regularly eating a balanced diet will stabilize the blood sugar levels.
  • Appling a heat pack or ice pack to your head or neck. Depending on what causes the headache, an ice pack or heat pack will stabilize the temperatures. Care should be taken to avoid extreme températures
  • Getting enough and regular sleep can also reduce the risk of headaches. This coupled with regular exercising and resting can also reduce pain of an already existing headache.
  • Do exercises (sport) regularly.
  • Relax by techniques of streching or yoga.
  • Taking a shower, preferably a hot shower has been known to reduce the pain of a headache. In rare cases, a hot shower may increase the headache. In this case, a cold shower is recommended.

Headaches are one of the most common pains in the world today. With women being more prone to them than men, children and adolescents are also not spared. A great consolation is the fact that you can greatly reduce your chances of being affected if you take good care of yourself. With regularity being the key, it is also important to seek medical attention if they become severe or very frequent. Recommend this article to someone you care about to ensure they know all there is about such a condition. That way they will be better equipped in the fight to reduce headaches.


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