Lifestyle

What do you know about headaches?

June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, which makes this a good time to learn more about headaches.

Headache is pain in any region of the head. Headaches may occur on one or both sides of the head, be isolated to a certain location, radiate across the head from one point, or have a viselike quality. A headache may appear as a sharp pain, a throbbing sensation or a dull ache. Headaches can develop gradually or suddenly, and may last from less than an hour to several days.

Headaches are generally classified by cause.

Primary headaches

A primary headache is caused by overactivity of or problems with pain-sensitive structures in your head. A primary headache isn’t a symptom of an underlying disease.

The most common primary headaches are:

Cluster headache
Migraine
Migraine with aura
Tension headache
Secondary headaches

A secondary headache is a symptom of a disease that can activate the pain-sensitive nerves of the head. Any number of conditions—varying greatly in severity—can cause secondary headaches.

Some types of secondary headaches include:

Medication overuse headaches
Sinus headaches
Spinal headaches
Thunderclap headaches
When to seek emergency care

Your headache symptoms can help your health care team determine the cause and appropriate treatment. Most headaches aren’t the result of a serious illness, but some may result from a life-threatening condition requiring emergency care.

Seek emergency care if you’re experiencing the worst headache of your life; a sudden, severe headache; or a headache accompanied by:

Confusion or trouble understanding speech
Fainting
High fever, greater than 102 to 104 F
Numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of your body
Stiff neck
Trouble seeing, speaking or walking
Nausea or vomiting, if not clearly related to the flu or a hangover.