The top 4 types of headaches

What’s the difference between a migraine, a tension headache and a cluster headache?

There are dozens of different types of headaches, but according to the NHS, the most common is a ‘tension’ headache, which affects the whole of the head with a dull, tight pain associated with stress, dehydration and muscle tension.

Migraines are more intense, and less common, striking one side of the head at a time and causing intense throbbing. They are thought to be linked to changes in nerve activity and blood-flow inside the brain. Hormonal changes can also cause headaches, and allergies and infections can cause pressure-related headaches due to congestion in the sinuses.

Rarely, a headache can be caused by something more serious. If the pain is sudden and intense, or is accompanied by a fever, rash, or changes in speech, memory or mobility, it’s important to contact a doctor. Such headaches could be sign of a stroke or brain tumour.

Some of the most common headache types explained

1. Sinus

Sinus headaches most often accompany an infection, and are linked to increased pressure either side of the nose and above the eyes due to mucus blockage.

2. Tension

Tension headaches tend to affect both sides of the head, and consist of a tight feeling. They are thought to be related to stress, muscle strain and dehydration.

3. Migraine

Characterised by intense, throbbing pain on one side of the head, migraines can affect people’s vision or make them feel sick or sensitive to noises and lights.

4. Cluster

Cluster headaches affect one eye, and are associated with severe pain, nasal congestion and tear production. This type of headache tends to recur several times.

 This article was originally published in How It Works issue 098, written by Laura Mears

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