Understanding Headaches: Aside from the common cold, headaches are the most reported medical complaint. According to WebMD, there are 150 different types of headaches. The severity of pain and triggers that cause them differ greatly. While genetics play a role in the development of these neurological disorders, there are a handful of environmental factors that may trigger headache disorders as well.
In many cases, headaches are considered harmless and may be treated with over-the-counter medication. However, headaches can also be a sign of a life-threatening condition. To help raise awareness about headache disorders and their differing characteristics, here are three types of headaches:
Understanding Headaches- Type #1: Tension Headaches
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, with an estimated 80 to 90 percent of the population experiencing one at some point in their lives. These headaches are characterized by a dull, aching pain on both sides of the head. The severity of pain is typically mild to moderate and can be treated with an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as aspirin or ibuprofen. While there are a handful of environmental factors that can cause a tension headache, stress is the most widely reported trigger.
Understanding Headaches- Type #2: Migraines
Migraines are the third most common illness in the world, affecting roughly one billion people. Unlike tension headaches, migraines produce a severe throbbing sensation on one side of the head. Accompanying symptoms include nausea and sensitivity to light. In some cases, migraines can be debilitating and may interfere with a person’s work or day-to-day responsibilities. While over-the-counter medications used to treat tension headaches may also help alleviate migraines, prescription strength pain relievers are usually more effective.
Understanding Headaches- Type #3: Cluster Headaches
Cluster headache is a rare neurological disorder, affecting less than 1 in 1,000 people. Characterized by intense unilateral pain around the eye, cluster headaches are recognized as one of the most painful conditions known to medical science. Other common symptoms include pupil constriction, runny nose, drooping eyelid, and more. The headaches occur in “cycles.” During a cluster cycle, a person may experience several attacks a day, which may last for several weeks or months. These cluster cycles are followed by a period of no attacks. However, these headaches almost always return as it is a lifelong condition. While there is no known cure for cluster headaches, the condition is typically managed through the use of prescription medication, specifically triptans and oxygen.