Seven out of ten10 individuals experience at least one headache every year, according to an estimate. So, if you are among those suffering from pain and discomfort in the head every now and then, you are not alone.
A headache is a pretty common condition. It may be mild sometimes, but it also can disrupt your daily routine because of its severity. In fact, around 45 million Americans experience severe headaches, which can render them unable to perform their routine activities.
You can easily manage your headaches in most cases by medication and lifestyle changes. However, you should not just shrug it off as something normal. While most headaches are not because of a serious illness, some may be a sign of a condition that requires emergency care.
Causes of Headache
Here are the causes of headaches, which are commonly linked with the symptom. They may or may not be an actual cause. Contact a doctor for an accurate diagnosis.
That dull pain in your head or a feeling that a clamp is squeezing your skull can be due to stress. A stress-caused headache is called the tension headache. It can prolong from half an hour to a few days. Mostly, it starts gradually and that too in the middle of the day.
Tension headaches usually do not disrupt a person’s day-to-day routine. Neither do they impact your balance, strength, or vision? Moreover, women are more susceptible to this kind of pain.
The symptoms of pain occurring out of stress include moderate to mild pain, a pressure in the top, front, or sides of the pain. It is also characterized by trouble in sleeping, feeling of tiredness, mild sensitivity to noise or light, muscle aches, and trouble in focusing.
2. Ear Infection
If you have a headache along with irritability, stiff neck, excessive sleepiness, confusion, and severe stiff neck, it may be due to an ear infection. Some of these symptoms may not arise, but if you have a headache with no apparent reason, it may be a sign of an infection.
An ear infection is a viral or bacterial infection, which affects the middle ear. Children are more likely to have this condition, as compared to adults. It is usually very painful because it inflames the middle ear and builds up fluids in there.
Another major symptom among adults is diminished hearing while among kids, it is the loss of balance.
Although the symptoms and signs of a concussion are usually subtle, headache is its visible sign. It can last for days, weeks, and even longer. If a person, who suffered from a concussive brain injury, experiences a headache accompanied by loss of memory and confusion, he may be facing a concussion.
This condition is a traumatic brain injury that encumbers the brain function. Its effects are usually temporary and include problem while concentrating, coordination, and balance.
A concussion is usually caused by a blow to head. So, if you experience a head injury, it is prudent to contact a doctor even if emergency care is not required.
Dehydration is another cause of a headache. The pain caused by dehydration can be relatively mild or severe as a migraine.
Dehydration occurs when your body is using or losing water more than it is taking in. Sometimes, your body is losing water faster than it can be replenished, like in vomiting or diarrhea.
When your body is dehydrated, your brain can temporarily shrink or contract from fluid loss. It ultimately causes a headache, which goes off when you rehydrate your body.
This headache accompanies dizziness, confusion, reduced or red-colored urine, fatigue, dry mouth, low blood pressure, increased heart rate, and extreme thirst.
Influenza is a viral infection, which affects your respiratory system, i.e., your throat, nose, and lungs. Commonly called as flu, it is another condition that causes a headache.
People suffering from this headache become sensitive to light, smell, and sound in some cases. However, if a headache persists after other symptoms go away, it may not be flu or cold. Instead, it can be a migraine or a tension headache.
If you have nasal congestion, aching muscles, or fever over 100.4 F along with a headache, you are most likely to be suffering from the flu.
6. Sinus Infection
If you have a headache along with a runny nose, fever, feeling of fullness, and swelling in your face, you are likely to have a sinus infection. Another sign that your headache is due to sinus infections is that it aggravates with a sudden movement of the head.
It is a recurring headache just like tension headaches or migraines and usually mistaken for these pains. Its treatment involves tackling the infection and relieving the symptoms. But all this requires a health care professional who may suggest you antibiotics, decongestants, or antihistamines.
You can also feel better with some home remedies like drinking more fluids, using a saltwater nasal spray, and a humidifier.
Medication overuse can also be a reason for your headache. This headache is also known as a rebound headache and is caused by long-term, regular use of medication to treat headaches like migraines. If you take pain relievers for over a couple of days for a headache, you can have another headache.
If a person has a headache disorder, any medicine he/she takes for pain relief can lead to rebound headaches. However, one can take pain relievers regularly for other conditions like arthritis. They are not known to cause medication overuse headaches.
A rebound headache dissipates when a person stops taking the pain reliever. It bothers when the person wakes up and occurs every day or almost every day. It may improve with pain reliever, but returns when the medication wears off.
A sudden, severe headache can be a sign of stroke, especially when it is accompanied by dizziness, vomiting, or altered consciousness.
A stroke occurs when there is an interruption in the blood flow of the brain. It has two types, i.e., ischemic stroke and hemorrhagic stroke. The former one occurs when an artery to the brain gets blocked. It causes the brain cell to die due to the absence of blood flow.
Whereas, a hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a brain artery bursts and causes bleeding in the brain. In this type, severe headache is the only symptom in one-third of the cases.
If you are having severe pain along with double or blurred vision and a loss of sensation, you have a stroke headache.
9. Low and High Blood Pressure
It is well known that high blood pressure causes a headache. However, it is a lesser-known fact that low blood pressure can also lead to a headache.
The change in the pressure in your skull causes a headache. If the pain aggravates when you sit or stand, it can be because of low blood pressure. It will improve when you lie down.
A headache due to high blood pressure sometimes starts with neck pain or at the back of the head. It gets worse with sneezing, exertion, and coughing and can be felt all over the head. This type of headache also accompanies muffled hearing, ringing in your ears, nausea, and dizziness.
A headache due to high blood pressure is characterized by throbbing or migraine-like pain and is usually worse in the morning. It can also come with neck and shoulder pain. Moreover, this headache can aggravate with sneezing, coughing, or exertion. It also causes ringing in the ears or changes in vision.
10. Shifting Hormones
Shifting hormone levels can also be a cause of a headache in women. The shift in hormone levels can occur during periods, menopause, and pregnancy. It can occur from taking birth control pills and also from hormone replacement therapy.
There are also menstrual migraines that can happen two days before your periods or for the first three days after your periods start.
You may also want to know about what different types of headaches are there because each has a different cause. Here’s some stuff about common headaches.
Types of Headache
Headaches are of different kinds that have their own set of symptoms. When you get to know the type of your symptoms, it becomes easy for you and your doctor to find a solution to your pain. There are 150 types of headaches depending upon the symptoms and causes. A few of those kinds, which are more common, are explained below:
1. A Migraine
A throbbing, pounding pain marks a migraine headache. It can continue from 4 hours to three days and occurs mostly one to four times every month. It happens on one side of the head.
A migraine is primarily a neurological condition that gives rise to multiple symptoms. Along with the pain, people face other symptoms like sensitivity to smells, noise, or light; vomiting or nausea; belly pain or upset stomach; and loss of appetite.
It can hit a person in childhood while in some cases it may arise in early adulthood. A few children’s migraines come with digestive symptoms like vomiting and happen once a month.
Women are more likely to have a migraine than men are. The most common risk factor for this condition is family history.
2. Cluster Headaches
This headache is non-throbbing and marked by excruciating, burning pain behind the eye or on one side of the head. In a cluster headache, the eyes tear up and cause nasal congestion runny nose or rhinorrhea.
A cluster headache can continue for long periods of time, which is called a cluster period. It can occur every day and even more than once a day. There is no known cause for this type of headaches.
This kind is rare and usually affects men aging 20 to 40.
A cluster headache starts a few hours after you have fallen asleep. It is usually painful enough to wake you up. In some cases, it can also begin when you are awake. It becomes severe after 5-10 minutes it started. The most intense pain persists between half hour and 2 hours.
3. Exercise Headaches
This headache arises when you exercise or do something physically demanding. What happens is that when you are exerting yourself, your muscles of neck, head, and scalp need more blood to circulate. As a result, your blood vessels dilate, leading to a condition called exertional headache or an exercise headache.
Although they may be unrelated to other factors, they are common in individuals having an inherited vulnerability to a migraine, i.e., one or both parents have a migraine.
This kind is benign and fades off with the usual headache treatments. However, you should not assume that your new exertional headache may be due to exercise. You need to rule out other causes for which you will have to go to a doctor.
4. Thunderclap Headaches
A thunderclap headache lasts for a short time, but it is intense in nature. It begins suddenly and does not intensify gradually. Rather, it is very intense and painful as soon as it starts. Those who have experienced it describe it as the worst pain of their life.
This kind of a headache can be a sign of a life-threatening condition. It is associated with some bleeding in your brain. Therefore, it is very important that you solicit medical attention when you experience the pain.
There is a possibility that it may be something benign; still, it should be checked immediately to locate the reason. Its symptoms include severe, sudden headache; fainting, vomiting and nausea; and pain in your neck or lower back apart from your head.
5. New Daily Persistent Headaches
This headache can start suddenly and continue for three months or even longer. Reason for this pain is still unknown. However, some people notice that it hits after a flu-like illness, an infection, stressful event, and surgery.
A headache is among the major reasons for leaving work in the middle of the day or dropping a class in the university. The pain may be in the same part of the body, but it has different types. A right diagnosis makes possible an effective treatment. Therefore, diagnosing the kind of a headache is very important.