When your temples are throbbing and you can’t see straight, understanding the type of headache you’re experiencing may help you find relief.
Headaches occur when blood vessels and nerves inside and outside the brain are affected by triggers or events. Women are more likely than men to get migraines, but migraines aren’t the only catalyst of head pain. A headache can be caused by dehydration, sinus pain, tension, eye strain and other stressors.
How Can I Understand My Headache?
If you get headaches that keep you from working or enjoying everyday activities, a tracking journal can help pinpoint your triggers.
There are many headache trackers apps for smartphones and tablets, but you can always use a notebook and pen to note the following:
- What you ate and drank
- How much water you consumed
- Exercise and activities
- How much sleep you got the night before
- Your emotional state
- Your menstrual cycle stage
- Specifics about headache pain, including the location, pain description of the pain and other symptoms, such as nausea
- Treatment type and effectiveness
When you recognize a pattern of triggers and headaches, try eliminating one trigger at a time to see if it helps control headache frequency. Also, tracking your treatments and their effectiveness can identify the remedies that work for you.
What Are the 4 Types of Headaches?
Headaches are categorized as primary (unrelated to other diseases or conditions) and secondary (a symptom of other diseases or health conditions, such as a sinus headache). More than 90% of headaches are considered primary, according to the Department of Veteran’s Affairs VA Healthcare. Primary headaches are further divided into four types:
- Migraines. Migraines affect women three times more often than men, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and can be related to hormonal fluctuations throughout your menstrual cycle. Moderate to severe throbbing pain on one side of the head is common along with nausea and sensitivity to light, sound and smells. Approximately 1 in 5 people with migraines also experience aura — a sensation involving lights — that can be a precursor to the headache or occur during it.
- Tension headache. The most common type of headache, tension-type headaches are usually mild to moderate and may be felt on both sides of the head. Often attributed to stress, depression, anxiety, missed meals or a lack of sleep, a tension headache is often distracting but not debilitating.
- Trigeminal autonomic cephalgia. This type of headache is commonly characterized by severe pain around the eye and is commonly called a cluster headache. Cluster headaches can inflict extreme pain around the same time of day for weeks.
- Miscellaneous primary headaches. Other types of primary headaches include chronic daily headache and primary stabbing headache. These headaches tend to be moderate and short-lived.
When Should I Seek Help?
See a healthcare provider if you have:
- Two or more headaches weekly
- Severe, sudden headache, especially if accompanied by a stiff neck, double vision, confusion, weakness or loss of consciousness
- Headache related to injury
- Worsening headache spanning days or weeks
- Recurring headache in children
Talk to a Professional
Need help pinpointing the cause of your headaches? Search our providers to find a St. Elizabeth Healthcare primary care specialist or neurologist who can help.