Headaches and Migraines

A headache is defined by the Mayo Clinic as “pain in any region of the head.” This common condition may develop gradually or appear suddenly as the result of a variety of factors.

Types of Headaches

Headaches and Migraines

Primary headaches occur without an underlying condition. These include cluster headaches, tension headaches, and migraines. Secondary headaches are caused by chronic diseases, structural defects or illnesses, such as in the case of a sinus headache. Some head pain may manifest in response to triggers that include food or food additives, stress, excessive physical exertion, environmental changes, medication, bright lights, and chemical exposure.


Pain is the main symptom of a headache and may appear in one of the following forms:

  • Pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Localized pain
  • Radiating pain
  • Aching, throbbing or sharp pain

Migraine sufferers may experience additional complications, including:

  • The severe pulsing pain made worse by activity
  • Blurred vision
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and smell
  • Vomiting

Discomfort from migraines may last for several days. Some people can tell that they’re about to get a migraine by the presence of an “aura” that precedes the condition. Examples of aura include seeing spots, shapes or flashes of light or feeling pins and needles in the extremities.

Prevention and Treatment

Learning to recognize triggers can help prevent headaches and migraines. Pay attention to what foods you eat, how much caffeine you drink and the weather conditions around the times that you get headaches and look for patterns to determine potential causative factors.

If you do develop pain in any area of your head, resting in a dark room may help alleviate it. Over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen can also offer temporary relief. Other medications, including triptans and ergotamine, may help to stave off migraines.

Most headaches don’t require medical treatment. However, if you develop a fever or experience confusion, fainting, neck stiffness, difficulty seeing, trouble speaking, or numbness or weakness on one side of your body, get to an urgent care center or emergency room immediately. These symptoms could indicate a more serious underlying condition.

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