Headache

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Overview

Almost everyone has had a headache. Headache is the most common form of pain. It's a major reason people miss days at work or school or visit the doctor.


The most common type of headache is a tension headache. Tension headaches are due to tight muscles in your shoulders, neck, scalp and jaw. They are often related to stress, depression or anxiety. You are more likely to get tension headaches if you work too much, don't get enough sleep, miss meals, or use alcohol.


Other common types of headaches include migraines, cluster headaches, and sinus headaches. Most people can feel much better by making lifestyle changes, learning ways to relax and taking pain relievers.


Not all headaches require a doctor's attention. But sometimes headaches warn of a more serious disorder. Let your health care provider know if you have sudden, severe headaches. Get medical help right away if you have a headache after a blow to your head, or if you have a headache along with a stiff neck, fever, confusion, loss of consciousness, or pain in the eye or ear.

Symptoms

Slow onset of the headache.

Head usually hurts on both sides.

Pain is dull or feels like a band or vice around the head.

Pain may involve the back part of the head or neck.

Pain is mild to moderate, but not severe.

Causes

Alcohol use.

Changes in eating or sleeping patterns.

Depression.

Emotional stress related to family and friends, work or school.

Excessive medication use.

Eye, neck or back strain caused by poor posture.

Lighting.

Noise.

Risk factors

A risk factor is something that raises the chances of getting a health problem. A person can get headaches with or without the ones listed below. The chances of getting headaches are greater in people who have many.


Risk Factors for Tension Headache

Lifestyle Factors

Stress, tiredness, or anger can cause tension headaches. Not getting enough sleep may also lead to headaches.


Health Problems

Depression and anxiety are two health problems that have been linked to tension headaches.


Risk Factors for Migraine

Migraines often start in late childhood. They are most common in people who are 45 to 65 years of age. They are also more common in women and in people who have other family members who have had this problem. Other things that may raise the risk are:


Lifestyle Factors

Triggers can differ in each person. Some are:


Missed meals or fasting

Certain foods and drinks

Sleep problems

Stress

Alcohol

Certain foods and drinks can trigger headaches in some people. They may need to be avoided.


Health Problems

Depression and anxiety are two health problems that have been linked to migraine headaches.


Medications

Some medicines may raise the risk, such as:


Birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy

Headache medicine used on a daily or near daily basis

Other

These headaches may be started by blood vessels overreacting to things like:


Menstruation

Changes in altitude or weather

Strong lights

Perfumes or other strong smells

Risk Factors for Cluster Headache

Cluster headaches often start in people who are 10 to 39 years of age. They are also more common in men and in people who have other family members with this problem.


Lifestyle Factors

Cluster headaches seem to happen more often in people whosmoke.


Health Problems

Depression and anxiety are two health problems that have been linked to cluster headaches.


Risk Factors for Sinus Headache

Health Problems

Some health problems cause mucus and swelling in the tissues lining the nose passages. This can cause pain and pressure. Health problems that raise the risk are:


Allergies

Lasting cold or upper respiratory infection

Nasal problems, such as a deviated septum or nasal polyps

Cystic fibrosis

Problems with the immune system

Prior sinus surgery

Injuries to the face that block sinus passages


Calendar Schedule

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Complications

Taking painkillers too often can trigger serious medication-overuse headaches. The risk seems to be highest with aspirin, acetaminophen and caffeine combinations. Overuse headaches may also occur if you take aspirin or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others) for more than 14 days a month or triptans, sumatriptan (Imitrex, Tosymra) or rizatriptan (Maxalt, Maxalt-MLT) for more than nine days a month.

Medication-overuse headaches occur when medications stop relieving pain and begin to cause headaches. You then use more pain medication, which continues the cycle.

Prevention

Avoid headache triggers. Keeping a headache diary can help you determine what triggers your headaches so that you can avoid the triggers. ...

Avoid medication overuse. ...

Get enough sleep. ...

Don't skip meals. ...

Exercise regularly. ...

Reduce stress. ...

Reduce caffeine.