Most of us have experienced headaches from time to time. It is a very common ailment that happens for different reasons. There are many types of headaches that require specific treatments. While some headaches are minor and can be managed with home remedies, there are a few that require immediate medical attention.
Headache or head pain is often difficult to describe. You may experience symptoms like throbbing or squeezing that is constant or intermittent, mild or intense. Headaches can be located to one part of the face or head or maybe spread out, involving the whole head.
If you regularly suffer from headaches, doctors recommend getting it checked. Once the type of headache is identified, our specialists can recommend the right treatment to manage and prevent them.
So what causes headaches? Let us find out.
People experience headaches as a result of a mix of signals between their brain, nerves, and blood vessels. The pain originates from the tissues surrounding the skull or brain. When the tissues, bones, and muscles that encase the skull, eyes, ears, or the meninges tissue covering the brain are inflamed or irritated, it switches on and sends pain signals to the brain.
Headaches are generally classified into 3 categories-
- Primary headaches
- Secondary headaches
- Cranial neuralgias, facial pain, and other headaches
People may experience one or more types of headaches at a time. Through a series of tests, our specialists will diagnose the reason for your headache and accordingly proceed with the treatment plan.
People generally experience headaches due to illness, stress, or genetic factors. Illnesses like the common cold, fevers, infections of the throat, nose, ear, or teeth, inflammation of the sinuses can cause throbbing headaches requiring a variety of treatments.
Common causes of headaches include infections, colds, and fevers. Headaches are also common with conditions like sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses), throat infection or an ear infection, or rarely, a sign of a more serious medical problem. Sometimes, headaches can also be a sign of more serious infection like meningitis (inflammation of the meninges) requiring immediate attention and treatment.
Stress headaches are simpler and can be effectively managed with lifestyle changes. According to WHO 1 in 20 people in developed nations suffer from daily tension headaches. Work stress, poor posture, changes in sleeping patterns, etc are the usual causes of stress headaches. However, people suffering from emotional stress, depression, and substance addiction may also experience severe headaches, which can only be managed by tending to the underlying mental and emotional issues.
Headaches triggered by genetics, especially migraine headaches tend to run in families. Such headaches may appear during childhood or early adolescent years. 90% of these children or teens suffering from migraines have immediate family members suffering from similar headaches. For instance, children born to a couple who has a history of migraines have a 70% chance of having them too.
A primary headache occurs due to overactivity or when there is an issue with pain-sensitive structures in your head. These aches are not a symptom of other underlying diseases. Headaches due to tension, migraine, and cluster headaches are some of the common types of primary headaches. Hormonal headaches and exercise headaches also fall under this category. Let’s learn more about them-
Tension Headaches are one of the most common types of headaches affecting adults and teens. People experiencing mild to moderate pain that comes and goes without other symptoms are diagnosed with tension headache. Studies also show that women are more prone to tension headaches than men.
People suffering from migraine headaches describe it as a pounding, throbbing pain that lasts from 3 to 4 hours. Patients usually experience this severe pain one to four times a month along with other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, stomach troubles, and sensitivity to light, noise, or smells. Migraine is found to affect both adults and children. Before reaching puberty, both boys and girls are equally affected by this condition. However, after puberty, women are once again more prone to pain than men.
Cluster headaches appear as an intense, piercing, and burning pain behind or around the eye. These headaches are quite severe and can be constant or throbbing, making the person suffering from it quite restless during an attack. They are called cluster headaches as they appear in groups. People suffering from cluster headaches experience it 1 to 3 times a day, lasting from 2 weeks to 3 months. Each attack may be 15 minutes to 3 hours long. This type of headache is more common among men in their late 20s. Children and women are also prone to it, although it’s not very common.
Chronic Daily Headaches
Chronic headaches are the type of headaches that occur 15 days or more in a month for 3 months or longer. These headaches may last up to 4 hours a day, rendering the patient unable to carry on with their work or routines. Chronic migraine, chronic tension headache, daily persistent headache, sinus headaches, and Hemicrania continua are types of aches that fall under this category.
As the name suggests, exercise headaches occur as a result of working out. When a person is active, the muscles on their neck, neck, and scalp require more blood. To meet this new demand, the associated blood vessels swell. As a result, they may experience pulsating pain on both sides of their head that can last anywhere between 5 minutes to 48 hours.
Shifting hormone levels in a person’s body can trigger headaches. Hormones generally occur during periods, pregnancy and menopause. Treatments like hormone replacement therapy and taking birth control pills can also trigger this kind of headache. Some women experience headaches 2 days before their period or during the first 3 days after it starts. This particular headache is termed menstrual migraines.
Secondary headaches occur due to an underlying structural or infectious problem in the head or neck. Headaches can occur due to a broad group of medical conditions ranging from infected sinus, infected ears, or teeth to life-threatening situations like brain infections like encephalitis or meningitis.
Traumatic headaches that occur post-concussion also fall under secondary headaches. Headaches that occur as a result of substance abuse and excessive use of pain medications are also grouped under secondary headaches. For instance, the “hangover” headaches people experience due to the consumption of too much alcohol is a secondary headache. Here alcohol is broken down into ethanol in your body, which enters your bloodstream and causes headaches through vasodilation. It also causes dehydration, which can also trigger a headache.
Cranial neuralgias, facial pain, and other headaches
The word neuralgia translates as ‘nerve pain’, which is exactly what this kind of headache is about. Cranial neuralgia is caused due to the inflammation of one of the 12 cranial nerves originating from the brain, that control the muscles and carry sensory signals such as pain to and from the head and neck. One of the most commonly recognized cranial neuralgia is the trigeminal neuralgia that affects the cranial nerve V. As it is the sensory nerve that supplies the face, any irritation or inflammation of this nerve can cause intense facial pain.
Diagnosis and treatment of headaches
If you are a person who regularly experiences headaches, we recommend you to visit our neurology hospital in Dubai for a comprehensive checkup. Our doctors can expertly diagnose the type of headache you are suffering from with or without the need for tests. Tests like CT scan, MRI, or EEG are prescribed in case of possible cranial issues. During your appointment, our doctors will also listen to your pain descriptions and take your personal and family’s medical history into consideration for error-free diagnosis.
Most primary headaches can be effectively managed through home remedies and basic pain medications. You may also have to make some lifestyle changes like reducing the use of caffeine or maintaining a healthy sleep routine. In case of secondary headaches or cranial neuralgia, you may have to undergo longer treatments or surgical intervention as needed.
So book your appointment at our headache clinic in Dubai today and get your condition checked at the earliest. Improve the quality of your life by saying goodbye to painful and irritating headaches.