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Headaches are the most common medical condition, affecting 60 to 80 percent of all people at any given time, at any given age, and for any given reason. We've all experienced headaches in one form or another, whether they were classified as stress, sinus or allergy, or the most intense type of a headache, the migraine.
A headache can be defined as head pain that may or may not have an underlying disorder. However, headaches can be much more complicated than most people realize. There are 150 different types of headaches, and each type has their own set of symptoms, happen for unique reasons, and require different types of treatment.
Headaches are classified into two main groups: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Primary headaches involve no underlying medical condition. Secondary headaches are caused by an underlying medical condition.
Out of 150 types of headaches, the following five are most common:
Tension Headaches: the most common type of headache, these cause mild to moderate pain. They typically come and go, and have no other symptoms.
Migraine: intense headaches that are caused by the constriction and dilation of intracranial and extracranial arteries. Their pain is often described as pounding, throbbing, and nauseating, and can last anywhere from four hours to three days. Affecting affect 17% of women and only 6% of men, migraines can begin to appear in childhood or adolescence, and recur throughout adulthood. They usually occur one to four times per month. Symptoms include:
Cluster Headaches: Called cluster headaches because they end to happen in groups, these are the least common but most severe type of headache. Some people may experience them one to three times per day during a "cluster period", which can last two weeks to three months. Each headache attack can last from 15 minutes to three hours, and have been known to wake the individual from sleep. The headaches may go into remission for months or years, only to return again.
Cluster headaches often affect men three to four times more often than women. Symptoms include:
Sinus Headaches: when cavities in your head, called sinuses become inflamed, this type of headache occurs. Symptoms include: a deep, constant pain in your cheekbones, forehead or the bridge of your nose, green or yellow nasal discharge, congestion in ears, facial swelling, and a fever.
Hormonal Headaches: Women can get headaches, or migraines caused by changes in their hormone levels. This is most common during menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause. Contraceptives may also trigger headaches in some women.
There are several conditions that can contribute to the pain an individual feels during a headache. Doctors have studied that the pain from a headache comes from a mixture of signals between a person's brain, blood vessels, and nearby nerves. Specific nerves of the blood vessels and head muscles switch on and send pain signals to the brain, however; doctors are not entirely sure why these signals turn on.
The most common causes of headaches include:
A variety of options to treat headaches exist, depending on their cause and severity:
Once you start a treatment program, keep track of how well it is working. Note any changes or patterns to how you feel, and always consult your physician before stopping or starting any treatment.