What is a headache?

A headache is an umbrella term that can mean for pain that occur in your head. There is diagnosis for over 150 types of headache. It is also one of the most common symptoms of a wide variety of health problems, such as hangovers or brain tumours. They can affect anyone regardless of age, race and gender.

Because a headache is so common, it is estimated that 50% of people experiencing headaches self-treat rather than see a health care provider. However, because a headache can mean other health conditions, you should see the doctor if your headache cause:

  • Confusion or trouble understanding speech;
  • Fainting;
  • High fever, greater than 39oC to 40oC;
  • Numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of your body;
  • Stiff neck;
  • Trouble seeing;
  • Trouble speaking;
  • Trouble walking;
  • Nausea or vomiting (if not clearly related to the flu or a hangover).

Your doctor will usually diagnose a headache from a history and description of its symptoms. Depending on the specific type of a headache, your doctor will recommend a suitable treatment.

What are the types of a headache?

The most common types of headaches are:

Tension headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches among adults and adolescents. It can be called muscle contraction headache or chronic daily headaches or chronic non-progressive headaches. In a tension headache, the muscle contraction in your head causes from mild to moderate pain that comes and goes over a prolonged period of time. A tension headache can last few minutes or days. It can lead to light sensitivity (photophobia) or sound sensitivity (phonophobia).


Migraine headaches are less common than tension-type headaches. You are diagnosed with a migraine if you have a recurrent headache lasting 4-72 hours. The pain is on one side of your head and often describe as pulsing, moderate to severe intensity pain. A migraine can make you feel nausea and/or sensitivity to light, noise, or odours. It can also cause loss of appetite and stomach upset or abdominal pain. The pain of a migraine can be triggered by routine physical activity.

Mixed headache syndrome

Mixed headache syndrome is a combination of a tension headache and migraine. It can happen to both adults and children.

Cluster headaches

A cluster headache is the least common yet most severe type of a headache. Cluster headaches occur in about 1% of the population and are distinct from a migraine and tension headaches on several levels. Cluster headache attacks can cause severe, unilateral pain that is around the eye or along the side of the head. Cluster headaches occur one to three times per day, thus the name cluster headache. A cluster period can last up to two weeks to three months then disappear completely for months or years, only to recur.

Sinus headaches

Sinus headaches is a common complaint in the general population. They are a deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead, or bridge of the nose. They are thought to be caused by viral or bacterial sinus infection. Symptoms include pain that intensifies with sudden head movement or straining, thick, discoloured nasal discharge, possibly decreased smell or no smell, facial pain or pressure and commonly fever, as well as and facial swelling.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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