Headaches: Types, Causes, Sign & Symptoms, Treatment, and Diagnosis

Isn’t headaches make you frustrated? If yes, then we come with something that might help you with that.

In this post, we come up with some important facts about the headache, and I hope many of them may be new to you. Additionally, in this article, you get all the details related to headaches, its types, symptoms, causes, treatment along with medicines.

Here, is the introduction part of the headache.

What is a Headache?

What are headaches?

Headache is a painful sensation in any part of the head. Particularly occur on one or both sides of the head. It might starts from a certain point and spreads throughout the head.

This pain may appear in the form of mild or intense pain that causes a sensation in the head. Headaches may occur slowly or abruptly. Normally, it may last from one hour to several days.

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Types of Headaches

Types of Headaches

In general, there are two types of headaches:

  • Primary headache
  • Secondary headache

Primary Headache

Primary headaches are autoimmune diseases that are caused by hyperactivity of the brain that is eventually due to the activation of pain receptors.

These include blood vessels, muscles, and veins of the neck and head region. In addition, primary headaches can also be due to changes in the brain’s chemical activity.

In general, there is no definite relation between primary headaches with other diseases.

Types of Primary Headaches

Following are the types of primary headaches:

  1. Migraine Headache
  2. Cluster Headache
  3. Tension Headache
Migraine Headache

This headache is a severe and painful type of headache. Moreover, they are often brought by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. 

Quick facts:
  • It is the 2nd most common headaches.
  • According to the World Health Organization (WHO), migraine headache is the sixth largest cause of disability worldwide which significantly impacts a person’s life.
  • Approximately 28 million people in the U.S. have migraine headaches. 
  • Affects every age whether a child, adult, or old age.
  • Often misinterpreted with sinus and tension headaches.
Sign and Symptoms

While talking about the most common symptoms, people generally have nausea along with the sensitivity of light. However, people also experience other symptoms too. And these are the following symptoms of migraine headaches.

  • Pain in the eyes, face, or neck
  • Pain can be dull
  • Headache can be acute, frequent, or throbbing
  • Distorted vision, or seeing flashes of light
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, or malaise
  • Sensory Disturbance like aura or sensitivity to sound
  • Gastrointestinal problems like vomiting
  • Also common: irritability, nasal congestion, or scalp tenderness

A migraine headache can be managed through by the following treatment that consists:

1. Self-Care: 

  • Stress management 
  • Improved sleep habits
  • Avoid migraine triggers 
  • Diet modification

2. Medication:

  • Antipsychotic
  • Analgesic
  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug
  • Stimulant
  • Nerve pain medication
  • Triptan
  • Neurotoxin
  • Dietary supplement

3. Therapies:

  • Progressive muscle relaxation
  • Acupuncture
Cluster Headaches

Cluster headache —a rare but important type of primary headache. It eventually happens in cyclical patterns or in clusters periods. Moreover, most notably, it affects primarily in men, as compared to women. The average age of headache sufferers in clusters is between 28-30 years, though it can also begin in infancy.

In most cases, people reports about the un-even sleep cycle. In addition, they also reported that get awakes in the mid-night with intense pain in-or-around one eye or on one side of the head.

Sign and Symptoms

Common Symptoms

  • Pain is severe on one side of the head
  • Nervousness
  • Running nose
  • Redness or watery eyes
  • Drooping of the upper eyelid and small pupils puffy eyes
  • In some cases nervous system dysfunction with intense sweating

Following are the treatment consists of supportive care and pain medications.

  • Supportive Care:
    • Oxygen therapy: Inhaled extra oxygen
  • Medications:
    • Steroid
    • Triptan
    • Calcium channel blocker
    • Nerve pain medication
Tension Headache 

The word tension defined its own meaning. Moreover, a tension headache often associates with muscle tightness in the head, scalp, or neck areas. Tension headaches that are associated with anxiety can be either episodic or chronic. However, patients report that the pain is like tight bands that squeezing the head.

Quick Facts
  • Tension headaches — the most common type of primary headache.
  • Around  90% of adults have tension headaches. 
  • Tension headaches typically start at noon.
  • More common in women than in men.
Sign and Symptoms

These are the following sign and symptoms of tension headaches:

  • Pain areas: in the face, muscles, or neck
  • Difficulty in falling asleep
  • Fear to loud sounds, or sensitivity to light
  • The sensation of tightness or pressure across the forehead or on the sides and back of your head.
  • Tenderness on the scalp, neck and shoulder muscles

1. Medication:

  • Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug 
  • Analgesic

2. Self- Care

  • Ice packs
  • Physical exercise
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Stress management

3. Therapies

  • Biofeedback
  • Joint manipulation
  • Chiropractic treatment techniques
  • Behavior therapy
  • Massage and Acupuncture

2. Secondary Headaches

Secondary Headache

These are the headaches that are due to any head or neck injury or may be due to sinus infection. In other words, secondary headache- is associated with other diseases. In the majority of cases, these headaches may be the sign of serious brain condition like an infection in the brain such as encephalitis.

Common Reason of Getting Secondary Headache

The following are the different factors that can cause secondary headaches:

  • Alcoholic hangovers
  • Brain tumors and Blood clots
  • Nocturnal teeth grinding
  • Meningitis and Vasculitis
  • Excessive doses of Anti-pain medication
  • Bleeding in or around the brain
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Concussion
  • Dehydration 
  • Tension
  • Hormonal fluctuations 
  • Back and neck muscles in stress
  • Exhaustion
  • Feeling Hungry

Note: Many people suffer from “mixed” headache disorders in which tension headaches or secondary headaches may trigger a migraine.

Types of Secondary Headaches

These are the following types of secondary headaches

  1. Rebound Headaches
  2. Thunderclap Headaches 
  3. Sinus Headache
  4. Caffeine Headache
  5. Cervicogenic Headache
  6. Stress Headache
  7. Spinal Headache
  8. Exertion Headache
  9. Allergic Headache
Rebound Headaches

Rebound headaches— medication overuse headaches. This is the most common cause of secondary headaches. It happens because of the improper use of medicine to relieve headaches pain. In general, it starts in the morning and continues throughout the day. However, it can be very intense as soon as the medicine’s effect stops.

Quick Fact
  • A person with a history of tension headaches, migraines, or transformed migraines can eventually get rebound headaches if they take too much of their anti-pain medications.

Due to large amounts of medicines such as acetaminophen, aspirin, ibuprofen, or pain-relieving drugs with caffeine can cause rebound headaches.

Sign and Symptoms

Common Symptoms

  • Daily persistent headache.
  • Pain resist till medication acts as a pain reliever but soon starting painting again.

Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • Nausea
  • Restlessness
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory problems
  • Irritability
Treatment of Rebound Headache

These are the following easy step to treat rebound headaches:

  • Discontinuing the headache medication.
  • Record your headache symptoms, frequency, and duration of occurrence.
  • Proper supervision
Thunderclap Headaches

In general, these are sudden headaches that triggered severe and intense pain. It’s also called the “worst headache in life”. Less than a minute, it would make people thunder with very intense pain and lasts for more than 5 minutes. However, they do not pose any life-threatening conditions.


These are several causes such as:

  • Bleeding from arteries 
  • Blocked veins in the head
  • Leaking spinal fluid
  • Rapid changes in blood pressure
  • Stroke
  • Blood clot in the brain 
Sign and Symptoms

Several symptoms like changes in vision, confusion, nausea, vomiting, weakness, and fever are common in thunderclap headaches.

Treatment of Thunderclap Headaches

The treatment eventually depends on its causes. Therefore, there is no definite treatment, but it totally depends on the causes of thunderclap headache. So, it is necessary to come up with the right conclusive diagnosis.

  • Prescription medications
  • Therapeutic lumbar puncture
  •  Surgery
  • For vomiting- I.V. painkillers
Sinus Headache

Pressure and swelling are felt behind the face, forehead, and eyes due to inflammation such as allergic reactions or infection in the sinus.


Sinus headaches typically due to migraines or other types of headaches. Moreover, sinus infections do not need to treat with antibodies but only with painkillers because the majority of symptoms are due to migraines.

Sign and Symptoms
  • Running Nose
  • Fever
  • Clogged, stuffy or congested in ears
  • Swelling face
  • Increase pain on the sudden head movement or due to strains.
Treatment of Sinus Headache

There are the following treatments that are available for sinus headaches:

  • Painkillers/ drugs:
    • Acetaminophen
    • Ibuprofen
    • Naproxen sodium
  • Antihistamines
  • Nasal steroid sprays
  • Home remedies:
    • Breathing in steam
    • Cleaning the nose with a saltwater solution
    • A warm washcloth
Caffeine Headache

Caffeine— the most popular psychoactive drug— is present in many beverages and foods, and when the cause of headache is caffeine then they called to be caffeine Headaches.

In fact, they are the withdrawal headache that is caused when you stop drinking caffeine in the long run because of the reduction in cerebral blood flow. And also causes blood vessels in the brain to constrict, which slows blood flow. 

Quick Fact
  • According to the study, around 50% of people felt a throbbing heart with persistent headaches during caffeine withdrawal.

Caffeine reductions can trigger a rebound effect causing blood vessels to swell up. In addition, caffeine blocks adenosine receptors of the brain. That’s why in the absence of caffeine, the person eventually starts feeling pain which often leads to headaches.

Sign and Symptoms

These are the following caffeine withdrawal signs that can often get converted to headaches:

  • Fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty in concentrating
  • Irritability and depressed mood
  • Tremors
  • Feeling low energy

However, other symptoms that are not common in caffeine headache are:

  • Increased heart rate
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Raised or reduced blood pressure
  • Constipation
  • Flu-like symptoms
  • Joint and abdominal pain
  • Muscle stiffness
Treatment of Caffeine Headache

The best remedies for a caffeine withdrawal headache is to consume some caffeine. But there are several other treatments you can look for if you don’t want to take caffeine.

  • Pain relievers:
    • Ibuprofen
    • Acetaminophen
    • Aspirin
    • Naproxen
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Avoid caffeine added products:
    • Medications
    • Foods and beverages
  • Take proper sleep
Cervicogenic Headache

It is like a tension-based headache but generally caused by muscle spasms and stiffness. Additionally, the pain could spread from the upper part of the brain to the lower part of the neck and cervical.


Conversely, it is due to the structural dilemma of the neck. However, they are common in people who are working in desk jobs, hairstylists, drivers, etc. who are often straining their necks.

Signs and Symptoms 

While talking about the most common symptoms, it is the neck pain and stiffness. While other symptoms include:

  • Pain on one side of the body parts like face or head, neck, shoulder, or arm.
  • Reduces certain neck movements or positions
  • Pain around the eyes
  • Aura or sensitivity towards sound
  • Nausea
  • Blurred vision
Treatment of Cervicogenic headache

There are several ways to lessen the pain:

  • Medicine
  • Physical therapy/ massage
  • Breathing or yoga, and acupuncture
  • Surgery
Spinal Headache

A headache that arises from the spinal tap— due to lumbar puncture. In this, the spinal fluid seeps through the spinal column, causing severe headaches while sitting and standing.

Quick Fact
  • Around 32 percent of people who undergo a spinal tap has spinal headaches. Spinal headache develops within five days.
  • Surrounding nerves and tissues become stretched
  • Spinal fluid leaks
  • Ruptured cyst on the spinal cord 
  • Head or face injury such as a fractured skull
Sign and Symptoms

Common symptoms like increase in pain while sitting and standing and headache pain worse due to coughing, sneezing, or straining occurs. While these are the other symptoms that are associated with spinal headache.

  • Neck pain or stiffening neck 
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • An intense pain on the back of the head
Treatment of Spinal Headache
  • Proper bed rest
  • Drinking plenty of fluids
  • Consuming caffeine 
  • Oral pain relievers
Exertion Headache

This is a headache caused by excessive physical exercise. It may be a combination of tension-associated headaches and mild dehydration.

Quick Fact
  • About 10 percent of the population has an exertional headache.
  • Seen more among men than women.
  • People of all ages can experience exertional headaches. However, 40+ age persons have a higher risk.

These are the following causes of exertion headaches:

  • Intense exercises such as running or weightlifting
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Tumors
  • Coronary artery disease
  • Sinus infection
Signs and Symptoms

Following are the common sign and symptoms of exertion headache:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to sound or light
  • Neck stiffness
  • Loss of consciousness
Treatment of Exertion Headache

These are the following treatment for exertional headaches, includes:

  • Medication:
    • Indomethacin
    • Propranolol
    • Naproxen (Naprosyn)
    • Ergonovine (ergometrine)
    • Phenelzine (Nardil)

Note: Gradually warming up before doing any strenuous exercise such as running, weightlifting, etc. can decrease the chance of getting exertion headaches.

Allergic Headaches

Similar to a sinus headache, allergens in the environment irritate the nasal passages and sinus tissue, which can cause these headaches.


They are caused due to allergic rhinitis, food allergies, and histamine. Moreover, other reasons are nasal or sinus congestion, stress, certain foods, and smoke easily triggered allergy headaches. 

Signs and Symptoms
  • Facial pain rather than a headache
  • Throbbing
  • one-sided headaches aggravated by sunlight 
  • Nausea
Stress Headaches

This is another form of tension-related headache. This pain is the result of stress arising from any cause.


These are the following causes of stress headaches:

  • Heightened sensitivity
  • Foods and alcohol
  • Activities or smoke
  • Stressors
  • Poor posture
  • Emotional stress
  • Dehydration 
  • Lack of sleep
Signs and Symptoms

The key symptom is discomfort on both sides of the head which can be attributed to muscle pain. Other signs are:

  • Pain areas: in the face, muscles, or neck
  • Difficulty in falling asleep
  • Fear of loud sounds
  • Sensitivity to light

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Diagnosis for Headaches

Diagnosis for Headache

Headaches could be diagnosable in two ways. First, your doctor will probably examine you for any signs of disease, infection, or neurological problems. For instance, the doctor asked about your headache history. 

Secondly, if the cause of your headaches remains unclear, a doctor can order imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI, to check for a medical condition that underlies.

General Treatment For Headaches

Headache treatment depends on its type and severity of the headache. Other factors such as the patient’s age, environment affects treatment for the headache.

Treatment For Headaches

1. Self-treatment

  • Medication that may reduce headache pain includes aspirin, paracetamol, and ibuprofen.
  • Resting in a darkened room may help.

2. Imaging:

  • X-rays.
  • CT (computed tomography) scan.
  • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)

When you should Seek Medical Care?

Make an appointment to see a doctor if you:

  • Feel worse than usual
  • Start having frequent headaches
  • Getting worse over time
  • Develop a fever higher than 102°F (39°C)
  • Experience nausea or vomiting
  • Can’t work, sleep or do daily activities
  • Don’t improve with self-treatment
  • Have one-sided numbness or paralysis, or trouble seeing, speaking or walking

General FAQ

Can children get headaches?

Ans. Unfortunately, headaches have never discriminated between adults and babies. Most young kids have experienced some form of headache, at high school.

What type of doctor should I see to diagnose and treat my headache?

Ans. Actually, it depends on what type and cause of headache you have. However, neurologists specialize in headaches but you may see a different kind of doctor i.e. a family doctor or an ophthalmologist.

What are the causes of headaches?

Ans. There are several factors that cause headaches such as lack of sleep, a wrong prescription for the eyeglass, stress, tension, and exposure to loud noise.

How do you treat different headaches?

Ans. There are several treatment choices for different forms of headache. By self-care, medication, and therapy such as massage, acupuncture, etc.

Can getting angry cause a headache?

Ans. Yes, anger causes headaches. Actually it worsens when you’re angry, tensing up the muscles in the back of your neck and scalp. And this triggers the feeling of a tight band around your head or eyes. And all these are the signs of a tension headache.

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