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Defining the Differences in Headaches


Defining the Differences in Headaches

We’ve all been there, suffering through the day because of throbbing discomfort in our heads. And while all headaches might be a pain, they’re not all the same. There are a variety of headaches, but according to the National Headache Foundation, every type falls into one of two basic categories: primary or benign and secondary.Primary headaches are more common and occur for no obvious reason while secondary headaches are relatively rare and usually the result of an underlying disease on medical condition. Below, we take a look at four of the most well known headache types and the symptoms of each.

1. Tension: The most common type of headache, tension-type headaches actually occur in two forms: episodic and chronic. Both forms can affect both sides of the head and can be described as dull, non-pulsating pain in the temples, forehead, back of the head and/or neck. Episodic tension headaches tend to be a result of temporary stress, anxiety, anger or fatigue. A chronic tension headache, however, can occur daily or with varying levels of pain throughout a 24-hour cycle and is usually a result of extreme anxiety, depression and insomnia.

2. Migraine:Affecting more than 37 million people in the United States, migraines can last anywhere from four to 72 hours and are typically described as moderate to severe pain occurring in one side of the head. More than 70 percent of sufferers have a family history of migraines and they are commonly misdiagnosed as tension or sinus headaches. One in five sufferers can experience what’s called an “aura,” or changes in specific nerve cells, which can cause visual (wavy lines or dots) or sensory symptoms (numbness) or a disturbance in speech.

3. Cluster: Occurring more often in men than in women, cluster headaches, or a grouping of attacks typically occurs on one side of the head around or behind the eye. A cluster headache tends to last between 15 minutes and three hours and can feel sharp and severe after minimal warning. Sufferers can experience anywhere from one to four headaches per day during a clustering period and many report feeling no pain at all between clustering periods. Cluster headaches are known to occur early in the morning or during the middle of the night, earning the nickname, “alarm clock headaches.”

4. Sinus:Pain from sinus headaches can be described as constant and dull and can be exaggerated by head or neck movement. While a majority of people believe they are experiencing a sinus headache, in actuality, over 90 percent of patients are actually experiencing migraines. Actual sinus headaches are quite rare and typically only occur in conjunction with acute sinus infections.

While over-the-counter medication can be used to treat many headaches, it’s important to consult with a medical professional before starting any self-treatment.