Headaches can cause severe pain and discomfort. They can last from a few minutes to a few days and are sometimes so bad that your daily activities are disrupted. Headaches fall under different types, ranging from tension headaches to migraines to cluster headaches.
There are few things as debilitating and inhibiting as a headache. While you may have heard about headaches in your life, do you know what a headache is? This article will tell you everything that may cause headaches, from the common to the odd to the grave, and not-so-serious reasons.
What are Headaches?
Headache is a throbbing or pulsating pain that lasts from 4 to 72 hours. People with migraines often get warning signs before an attack, such as feeling irritable, having trouble sleeping, and having food cravings.
Migraines are not life-threatening and can be treated with over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil). Some people may need prescription drugs or nerve blocks for relief from migraines.
This type of headache occurs in cycles triggered by specific weather conditions, stress, or alcohol use. It causes severe pain in one side of the head, usually worse on one side than on both sides. Cluster headaches typically last 30 minutes to three hours but sometimes go on for days.
Types of Headaches
1. Tension Headaches
The most common type of headache, tension headaches, are caused by muscle tension or stress. They often affect the neck and scalp but can also occur in the back of the head and forehead or even throughout the whole head.
2. Migraine Headaches
Migraine headaches are intense, throbbing, recurring, and lasting from four to 72 hours. Migraines can cause nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and other symptoms such as dizziness and tingling in your arms or legs. The pain is usually on one side of your head, but it may also affect both sides of your head at once.
3. Cluster Headaches
Cluster headaches are much shorter than migraines and happen only once or twice a day, but they’re extremely painful. They usually strike in the morning and resolve by midday.
The pain is centered on one eye, but it often spreads to the forehead and can cause drooping eyelids, runny nose, and tearing of the eyes. Some people describe it as feeling like an ice pick being jammed into their skull behind one eye.
4. Sinus Headaches
Sinus headaches typically occur when pressure builds up inside your sinuses due to colds, allergies, or other factors (like sleeping with your mouth open). Sinus pain often feels like pressure around one eye, which may be accompanied by a headache behind the eye or in front of it.
5. Rebound Headaches
Rebound headaches are a form of chronic daily headaches caused by the overuse of painkillers. The condition can result from taking too many painkillers, such as aspirin and ibuprofen, from treating headaches.
6. Thunderclap Headaches
Thunderclap headaches are a rare form of migraine that can be extremely debilitating and painful. These headaches typically cause extreme pain on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. They usually last less than 30 minutes but can last up to five hours or more.
Top 6 Causes of Headache
The sinuses are hollow areas in your skull that contain air. When sinus congestion blocks airflow through these spaces, it can cause nerve pressure, leading to pain in your face and head. Sinusitis is an inflammation of the tissue lining these spaces, which can be caused by infection or allergies.
2. Hormonal Changes
Pregnancy, menopause, and menstruation are some common hormonal causes of headaches. Hormones can affect brain chemicals that control pain signals sent from nerve cells to the brain.
3. Stress and Anxiety
Stress and anxiety are the most common causes of headaches. If you tend to worry, you might experience stress-induced headaches.
4. Lack of Sleep
Insufficient sleep can also be a cause of headaches, especially if you’re someone who doesn’t get enough sleep regularly. The lack of sleep makes your brain and body more vulnerable to pain signals from stress, tension, or inflammation that can cause headaches.
5. Dehydration or Electrolyte Imbalance
Dehydration is another common reason for headaches. If you don’t drink enough water, it can lead to dehydration which causes your blood vessels to swell and pressure your brain tissue.
6. Hunger or Low Blood Sugar (Hypoglycemia)
Suppose you skip meals or overeat sugar. In that case, your blood sugar levels can drop too low (hypoglycemia), which causes inflammation in your brain tissue and leads to headaches and other symptoms such as fatigue and irritability.
Are There Certain Foods That Cause Headaches?
The short answer is yes, and certain foods cause headaches, though it’s not clear exactly why.
The most common culprits include:
- Strong or spicy foods
- Food additives (such as MSG)
- Fried and greasy foods
- Milk and dairy products
Tyramine is an amino acid in aged cheese, cured meats, fermented foods, dried fruits, and chocolate. Tyramine can cause blood vessels to dilate and constrict, increasing the pressure in your head and causing pain. People with high blood pressure or migraine headaches should avoid eating large amounts of tyramine-rich foods to prevent headaches.
Monosodium Glutamate is a chemical used as a flavoring agent in many processed foods such as canned soups, sauces, and salad dressings. Some people experience headaches after eating these foods. Still, others don’t react, so it’s important to know your body’s response before assuming that MSG causes headaches for everyone who eats it.
How Do Sleeping Habits Affect Headaches?
Sleep quality can make a big difference in how you experience headaches and their severity and frequency.
The following are some ways that sleep habits can affect headaches:
1. Lack of Sleep
Poor sleep is one of the most common reasons people get headaches. They have insomnia or other sleep disorders. Lack of sleep can cause stress and anxiety, leading to more frequent headaches.
Insomnia is not getting enough sleep or having trouble falling asleep at night. It can be caused by stress, anxiety, depression, other mental health issues, and physical problems like depression or obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). Insomnia affects 20% of Americans, according to the National Sleep Foundation.
3. Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA)
Obstructive sleep apnea happens when your throat relaxes so much during sleep that it blocks your airflow and causes pauses in breathing for 10 seconds or longer every 10 to 20 seconds throughout the night — even if you’re unaware of it happening at the time. This can happen hundreds of times each night and leave you exhausted all day due to low oxygen levels.
When Should I See A Doctor About My Headaches?
If you have new or severe headaches that do not go away after 2 weeks of conservative treatment (see below) or if you have a fever with the headache, see your doctor right away. Other warning signs include:
- Frequent headaches occur without any known trigger (such as eating certain foods).
- Headaches interfere with your daily life or ability to function at work or school.
- Headaches occur suddenly when you’re doing something strenuous (such as exercising) or when you’re anxious or under stress.
- Changes in emotions or moods can lead to tension headaches or migraines without a trigger, such as food or weather changes.
Treatment of Headaches?
The treatment of headaches depends on the type of headache you have. The most common types of headaches are tension, migraine, and cluster headaches.
Tension headaches are usually not severe and can be relieved with painkillers such as aspirin or ibuprofen. If you have a headache for more than three days a week or your headache is very severe, you may need to see your doctor to rule out other causes of the problem.
Migraine headaches are often more severe than tension headaches. They are more likely to affect one side of the head and cause vomiting or sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can be treated with painkillers or anti-sickness tablets. In some cases, more vital medication may also be needed.
Cluster headaches are rarer than other types of headache, but they can be very painful and disabling. They tend to occur in groups over weeks or months at irregular intervals, rather than every day like migraines, so they do not respond well to the usual treatments for migraine attacks
What Are Some Things To Avoid To Prevent Headaches?
There are some things to avoid to prevent headaches;
- Try not to use your phone before bedtime. The blue light from the screen may make it harder for you to fall asleep, which can cause headaches.
- Make sure you sleep well and try not to nap during the day.
- Avoid skipping meals, especially breakfast.
The causes of your headaches are limited; specifically, you should see a doctor. Visit University Urgent Care today for immediate headache relief. We will help you identify, and manage your headache symptoms.
I hope this guide helps you to make an informed choice about what type of treatment you might need for your headaches.