What Causes Headache

By M. Chris Wolf, PH.D.


What causes headache is a question that can only be addressed by first determining what type of headache is occurring. Headaches are common conditions that almost everyone has experienced at one time or another. The frequency, duration and severity however differ from one person to the next. Headaches can range from mild to severe pain that is felt in different areas of the head. There are three primary types of common headaches: tension, migraine and cluster headaches.

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Tension Headaches

What causes headache related to tension? Stress is the primary culprit for the cause of a tension headache. A tension headache is the most common type of headache. Tension headaches can be result of eye strain, overworking and muscle strains. Other causes of tension headaches include getting too much or little sleep and sitting in one position for long periods of time.

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches are very painful and can last several days. When you have a migraine headache there is usually a change in vision and mood as well as periods of feeling extreme nausea. For some, a migraine can be debilitating and interfere with daily life activities. Although mental and physical stress are thought to be a primary cause for migraines there are a variety of other suspected causes of migraine headaches including:

Ÿ Certain foods such as caffeine, chocolate and cheese

Ÿ MSG in food

Ÿ Sleep deprivation

Ÿ Illnesses such as epilepsy, depression, Tourettes syndrome and anxiety

Ÿ A change in eating patterns

Ÿ Some medications

Ÿ Excessive consumption of alcohol

Ÿ Smoking

Cluster Migraines

This type of headache is recurrent and severe forms of a migraine. A cluster headache typically lasts throughout the day and occurs every day for several days at a time about the same time each day. Although there is no specific cause for cluster headaches, research has shown that many who suffer with cluster headaches have some type of abnormalities in thehypothalamus or that there is damage to the trigeminal nerve, which is responsible for carrying sensations from the head to the brain.

Unless someone has suffered from a serious head trauma, there is no exact explanation for what causes headache, however, it is believed that stress, and diet and additional health conditions are what induces a headache. For most a headache whether it is a tension, migraine or cluster headache can typically be treated and relieved with the use of over the counter medications and/or prescription medications. If you experience severe headaches on a regular basis, a physician may run several tests such as a CT scan to determine if the headaches are related to a more serious medical condition.

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References:

Medline Plus: Headache

http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/headache.html

Mayo Clinic: Tension Headache

http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/headaches/HE00002



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