Headache: What is it? Types, Warning Signs, Diagnosis and Treatment

It is a pain in any part of the head. Headache is so common that almost everyone will have it at some point in their lives.

Approximately half of the adult population reports having a headache at least once a year. Sometimes, it is only a minor pain that can be ignored, but it can be so severe that it prevents an individual from functioning correctly.

Types of headaches

There are two main types of headaches:

  • Primary headache
  • Secondary headache

Primary headache

It is the type of headache that can not be attributed to any underlying disease. This type of headache happens without any underlying reason.

Examples of this type of headache are:

Migraine headache: this type of headache is characterized by moderate to severe stinging pain on one side, lasting from a few hours to 3 days.

This is sometimes preceded by an aura or an abnormal perception of light or sound. It can be associated with nausea or vomiting. This type of headache is worse when exposed to loud sounds or bright light.


Tension headache: this type of headache is characterized by a mild to moderate pain, dullness, and squeezer in the head that lasts from a few minutes to several hours. This is usually described as a headband or helmet that becomes tighter and tighter. The pain is distributed and felt in the head.

Cluster headache is characterized by an intense, throbbing, stabbing pain that lasts from 30 minutes to 3 hours. The pain is usually felt in the temples or the back of the eyes. This is characteristically associated with lacrimation or nasal discharge.

Secondary headache

It is the type of headache due to an underlying medical condition. There are hundreds of possible causes of secondary headaches ranging from the simplest colds or the alcoholic hangover to the most serious and life-threatening, such as brain tumors or aneurysms.

Some of the severe causes of secondary headaches are:

  • Meningitis.
  • The tumor is cerebral.
  • Cerebral hemorrhage.
  • Brain abscess

Warning signs

In general, most headaches resolve spontaneously, and very few require a visit to the doctor. However, headaches with specific warning signs or red flags should be taken seriously and consulted with a doctor. These warning signs are:

  • Sudden and severe headache (thunder headache).
  • Progressive worsening of headache not relieved by analgesics.
  • Headache that wakes him from sleep.
  • New start headache in someone over 50 years old.
  • Headache with fever.
  • Headache with a stiff neck.
  • Headache with convulsions.
  • Headache with a rash
  • Headache with numbness or weakness of a limb.
  • Headache with visual disturbances, such as blurring.
  • Headache during sexual intercourse
  • Headache after a head injury is significantly associated with vomiting.
  • Headache with fever (38 ° C or more).
  • Headache with confusion.
  • Headache is associated with certain medical conditions, such as sickle cell disease, bleeding problems, immune system problems, genetic problems, heart problems, or cancer.
  • Headaches 1 per month or age 3 in a child.


The diagnosis of primary headaches does not require special tests, only history and physical examination. However, if the headache is suspected of being secondary to an underlying medical condition, a doctor may request some diagnostic tests to confirm your diagnosis.

These may include:

  • Blood tests to rule out infection.
  • Lumbar tap to detect brain or a spinal condition.
  • Brain computed tomography or brain magnetic resonance to rule out brain tumor or hemorrhage.

Treatment of headache

The treatment of headaches depends on the type of headache and the underlying cause. Secondary headaches are usually resolved with the improvement of the underlying medical condition. Primary headaches, on the other hand, resolve themselves even without treatment.

However, this does not mean you have to put up with it and expect your headache to disappear spontaneously. Many painkillers (or painkillers) are available for headaches.

Some can be bought without a prescription (such as acetaminophen and ibuprofen), and others need medication (such as tramadol and other potent painkillers).

Medications for migraine such as triptans can be used to prevent migraine if taken at the first sign of onset. For children, the dosage of these drugs depends on their weight, so the advice of a doctor can be beneficial.

Aspirin, a common pain medication, should not be given to children because it can cause Reye’s syndrome. Reye’s syndrome is a rare but potentially fatal condition characterized by rashes, convulsions, and confusion due to inflammation of the brain and liver.

In addition to medications, behavioral changes can also help control the problem of headaches.

Most primary headaches have known triggers. Keeping a headache journal can help you identify and avoid the particular trigger of your headache.

Tension headaches or muscle contractions are usually related to stress, but the triggers (also for migraines) can include anxiety, skipping meals, or eating very little.

Certain foods or drinks, such as red wines or cheeses, have very little or a lot of caffeine, alcohol, light, sounds, and smells, and certain medications or activities.

Learning relaxation techniques can help you decrease the frequency of your headaches.

Get enough sleep and rest.