A headache can derail your day in an instant. Understanding what causes headaches can help you to deliver the correct treatment. In this article, we will explore some of the most common causes of headaches and how to treat them. Once you’ve learned to distinguish your migraines from your tension headaches, you’ll easily be able to administer a remedy to get to the source of the pain.
Knowing what causes headaches is the first step to being able to cure them. Some headaches will go away with a glass of water while others may require further intervention to bring you some relief. Let’s begin by exploring what causes headaches and how to treat them.
What causes headaches?
Headaches may result from chemical activity in the brain, issues with the blood vessels or nerves in your head, or problems with the muscles in your neck. There are also genetic factors that come into play. If your close relatives often suffer from headaches, it could be a genetic trait. Other conditions can also cause headaches, which would make the headache a symptom of another condition.
The main types of headaches
There are 5 main types of headaches. The most common headaches are:
- Cluster headaches
- Migraines with aura
- Tension headaches
- Trigeminal autonomic cephalalgia (TAC)
These are all known as primary headaches. A primary headache is one where the headache is the main symptom. There are also secondary headaches, where the headache is a symptom of another condition. A lot of common and uncommon conditions can cause secondary headaches.
Headaches are either acute or chronic. Acute headaches will come on suddenly and may be mild to severe. A chronic headache is a long-developing syndrome.
Headaches may also be linked to specific activities, such as drinking too much alcohol, eating certain foods or missing sleep.
What causes headaches: cluster headaches
Cluster headaches are among some of the most painful headaches. The exact cause of cluster headaches is not known, but scientists suspect that they have something to do with disturbances to the body’s biological clock. They are not associated with any triggers and can come on suddenly, often during the night.
A cluster headache will often affect one side of the head. You might experience a sudden stabbing pain behind one eye. You may also experience excessive tearing, sweating, a runny nose and swelling around the eyes.
Medication is available to help treat cluster headaches. You will need to visit your doctor to confirm you are experiencing cluster headaches. Keeping a diary of symptoms can help you to identify if you are experiencing cluster headaches.
What causes headaches: migraines
Migraines, with or without aura, will often develop in stages. The most common symptoms of a migraine attack are throbbing pain on one side of the head, increased sensitivity to stimuli and nausea/ vomiting.
The cause of migraines is not yet known, but genetics and environmental factors are likely at play. It is suspected that chemical imbalances in the brain could be to blame for this type of headache.
Medication is available for those who suffer from migraines. A symptom diary can help you to identify triggers and learn how to manage your migraines.
What causes headaches: tension headaches
If you feel like you have a tight band around your head, this could be a tension headache. This pain is often dull and aching and might be accompanied by tenderness on your scalp, neck and shoulders.
A tension headache is often the result of excessive stress. Keeping stress to a minimum is one of the best ways to manage your symptoms. Some people who experience tension headaches also have an increased sensitivity to pain, so biofeedback training can help you to identify and control your pain response.
Tension headaches will typically respond well to pain medication, but controlling the triggers should also be a priority. Making improvements to your diet, sleep and exercise levels can help to alleviate tension headaches.
Other causes of headaches
You might experience a headache as a symptom of other conditions, such as a sinus infection or the flu. In this case, you should address the primary condition as this should help to control your headache. Over the counter pain medication can help to control pain from a secondary headache.
Hangovers or dehydration can also cause headaches. In this instance, a glass of water or oral rehydration therapy might be necessary to help this headache go away.
When to see a doctor for a headache
Headaches will usually go away on their own or with the help of pain medication, but there are some instances where you should seek help from a GP.
- Your headaches that keep coming back.
- Severe headaches that do not go away with pain medication.
- Headaches that get worse with pain medication.
- A headache accompanied by voFind out what causes headaches, how they are diagnosed, and ways to treat them.miting or sensitivity to light or noise.
- A headache accompanied by other symptoms included numbness and weakness in the arms.
If you have a headache following a fall or another accident, you should treat this as a medical emergency and call 999 or go to A&E. If your headache is extremely painful and you have any of the following symptoms, you should also call 999 or go to A&E.
- Sudden difficulty speaking or remembering things.
- Vision loss.
- Confusion or a drowsy feeling.
- A high temperature, feeling hot and shivery, a stiff neck or a rash.
- The white of your eye turns red.
Most headaches can be managed with over the counter pain relief medication. If you need help choosing the right medication for your headache, get in touch with our friendly team today.