Headaches – The Major Causes and Symptoms

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Headache, also known as cephalgia, is classified into two categories, primary or secondary, and all headaches fit into one of these two classifications. Depending on classification and headache type, the headache symptoms will vary. Primary headaches are standalone, meaning they are not associated with any other disease or disorder, but are themselves the primary disorder. In other words, they are not associated with any other underlying pathology. Secondary headaches are those attributed to some other pathologic condition. Secondary headaches are the result of infectious diseases, neoplasms (tumors), drug-inducements, and other causes of unknown origin.

Primary headaches include tension-type headaches, migraine headaches, sinus headaches, and cluster headaches, and are much more prevalent than secondary types, which are rarely seen. The most common primary headaches are tension-type and it has been estimated that up to 90% of adults have this type. Females are twice as likely to suffer from tension headaches as males.
Tension headaches are often mistaken for migraines because they have many of the same symptoms. They generally produce mild to moderate pain that feels like a tight band has been placed around the head. Pressure is felt from the back of the head and neck area all the way around to the forehead. The pain is usually pounding or throbbing, affects the front, sides, back, or top of the head, and can shift back and forth from mild to severe throughout the day. These types of headaches may last from a few minutes to several days. A good indication of whether it’s a tension-type or migraine headache is that tension-types do not affect vision, balance and equilibrium, or muscle strength.
Migraine headaches are the second most common type of primary headache, affecting as many as 30 million people in the United States. Migraines typically begin manifesting their symptoms sometime between the age of puberty and young adulthood, but can also affect children. In children, migraine pain is experienced equally in males and females, but as adults, females are three times more likely than males to suffer with migraine symptoms.
Migraines are typically unilateral and are of a stabbing and pulsating nature. They are more often then not accompanied by temporary neurological disturbances such as bright flashes of light or zigzagging patterns of light. Other symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
Sinus headaches are caused by inflamed sinus cavities. Sinuses are air-filled cavities in the cheekbones, forehead, and base of the nose that produce a mucus which normally drains out the nose. Sinuses can become inflamed due to infections, allergic reactions, and other disorders, which can prevent the normal flow of mucus. This buildup of mucus can cause enough pressure to result in a sinus headache.
Typical symptoms of a sinus headache are pain in the forehead, cheekbones, or base of the nose (sinus locations). In addition to the pain there is usually a high amount of nasal mucus flow, fever, and swelling in the face.
Cluster headaches, also known as “suicide headaches,” are much more rare than tension-type or migraine and occur in just 0.1% of the population. They affect men the majority of the time and “intense pain” is their prominent feature. They differ from migraines in that they come on quickly; their onset is rapid. They are almost exclusively unilateral which is why they are often mistaken for brain tumors or even multiple sclerosis.
Secondary headaches can result from countless numbers of conditions that run the gamut from life threatening to mild. They can be caused by relatively minor events such as caffeine withdrawal or discontinuance of pain medication and also from life threatening disorders such as brain tumors, strokes, and spinal meningitis. They can also result from eye strain, blurred vision and coughing.
There are many other types of headaches, each having their own unique headache symptoms. The vast majority belong in the primary category while a lesser percentage of headaches are classified as secondary. It is often difficult, even for the professional, to diagnose the different types of headaches correctly, as many of the same signs and symptoms overlap the various types.
Also see:  types-of-headaches-in-children

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