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Headache

What is a headache?

A headache is pain or discomfort in the head or face area. Headaches vary greatly in terms of pain location, pain intensity, and how frequently they occur. As a result of this variation, several categories of headache have been created by the International Headache Society to more precisely define specific types of headaches.

What aches when you have a headache?

There are several areas in the head that can hurt when you have a headache, including the following:

The tissues of the brain itself do not hurt because they do not have pain-sensitive nerve fibers.

What causes a headache?

Headaches may be caused by a number of conditions, such as disorders of the neck, eyes, brain, jaw, or teeth. Headaches with an underlying medical condition are classified as secondary headaches because they are related to the condition. An example of this would be a headache due to neck injury or sinus infection.

Other headaches are classified as primary because the headache itself is the main medical problem, although associated factors, such as muscle tension or exposure to certain foods, may be identified. Other contributing factors may include medications, dehydration, or changing levels of hormones. These factors that influence headaches are sometimes called headache triggers.

What are some of the different types of primary headaches?

What are the most serious symptoms of a headache?

Headache symptoms depend on the type of headache. The frequency of headaches and the intensity of the symptoms may vary as well. Symptoms that may suggest a more serious headache include any of the following:

The symptoms of a headache may resemble other conditions or medical problems. Always consult your doctor for a diagnosis.

How are headaches diagnosed?

The full extent of the problem may not be understood immediately, but may be revealed with a comprehensive medical evaluation and diagnostic testing. The diagnosis of a headache is made with a careful history, physical examination and diagnostic tests.

Questions commonly asked during the exam may include, but are not limited to, the following:

If the history is consistent with migraine or tension-type headaches and the neurological exam is normal, no further diagnostic testing may be necessary. However, if it is not a primary type headache, then other tests may be needed to determine the cause.

Tests used to determine the cause of a headache may include:

How are headaches treated?

Specific treatment for headaches will be determined by your doctor based on:

The ultimate goal of treatment is to stop headaches from occurring. Adequate headache management depends on the accurate identification of the type of headache and may include:

Migraine headaches may require specific medication management including:

Some headaches may require immediate medical attention including hospitalization for observation, diagnostic testing, or even surgery. Treatment is individualized depending on the underlying condition causing the headache. Full recovery depends on the type of headache and other medical problems that may be present.