Common Headache Uncommon Reasons

20 May 2020

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You are in the middle of a difficult task with a deadline to meet, you’re sitting at your desk trying to get your work done when suddenly you feel a hammering on the top of your head. Maybe you are doing a regular chore that is nowhere close to being a stressful task when you’re struck by a severe headache. Alternately, you have periodic headaches that are accompanied by nausea and increased sensitivity to light or sound. Sound familiar? If yes, you suffer from one of the many types of headaches. Yes! There are different types and causes of headaches. 

According to the WHO, almost half of the adult population across the world suffer from headaches. They are characterized by recurrent headaches and are often the result of personal or societal burdens of pain, poor or damaged quality of life, disabilities, and financial stress. Headaches are often underestimated, under-recognized, and under-treated throughout the world and across all the classes. Only a handful of people with headache disorders are diagnosed appropriately. Headache disorders can affect a person’s quality of life, quality of work, and productivity. Repeated attacks of headache and the constant fear of having the next attack can damage one’s personal relationships, social life, career, and employment. Long-term coping efforts can expose individuals to health conditions like anxiety and depression. Therefore, it is important to identify the type and cause of headaches [1]. Listed below are the most common types of headaches and the reasons associated with them.

Migraine

This is the most common type of headache disorder that often begins at puberty and affects the most aged between 35-45 years of age. It is twice as likely to affect women due to hormonal influences. Migraine is the result of activation of a mechanism deep in the brain that leads to the release of inflammatory substances around the blood vessels and nerves of the head that cause severe pain. 

Migraine is recurrent and often lasts a lifetime. The attacks typically include headaches that are of moderate or severe intensity, one-sided, pulsating in quality, aggravated by routine physical activity and may last for several hours and sometimes even up to 2-3 days; and nausea [1].

Tension-Type Headache (TTH)

Chronic TTH that occurs on more than 15 days per month affects 1-3 % of the adult population beginning from the teen years. TTH is often the result of severe stress or musculoskeletal problems in the neck. Episodic TTH attacks can last for a few hours or persist for several days. Chronic TTH can be unremitting and way more disabling as compared to the episodic TTH. If your headache feels like pressure or tightness, like a tight band around the head, sometimes spreading all the way down to the neck, you are suffering from TTH [1]. 

Cluster Headache (CH)

CH is relatively uncommon. It affects one in 1000 adult individuals, and is six times more common in men than in women. Most people develop CH in their early 20s. This condition is characterized by frequently recurring, extremely severe headaches that occur several times a day. The pain is usually focused in or around one eye with tearing and redness of the eye. The nose on the affected side is blocked or runs [1]. 

Medication-Overuse Headache (MOH)

As the name suggests, MOH is caused due to excessive use of medications that treat a headache. It is oppressive, persistent, and often at its worst on awakening [1]. 

Sexual Headache

Sexual headache, also known as coital cephalalgia is of two types, pre-orgasmic and orgasmic. It is unpredictable and does not necessarily have to transpire after every coital experience. 

The pre-orgasmic type is usually a dull, pressure-like, or aching pain that occurs during the coital activity and increases with the mounting of excitement and pleasure. Orgasmic headache, on the other hand, is a sudden explosive onset that is followed by a severe throbbing pain in the head that occurs at the moment of orgasm or immediately after it [2].  

Not all headaches can be cured by popping in paracetamol or any painkiller. Your headache may not just be the result of extended screen time, but something more severe, something indicating serious health concerns. Therefore, it is important to find the cause of the problem, so that it can be diagnosed early and treated before it gets worse. Each of the above-mentioned types of headache demands a different treatment that is more than just over-the-counter medication. Visit a doctor to get to the root cause of your condition, and find solutions.

References

  1. https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/headache-disorders
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4117064/

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