Headaches are pain in the head or face that are usually described as throbbing, sharp, continuous, or dull pressure. Headaches can vary substantially with regard to type of pain, location, severity and frequency.

Headache is a common condition that most people experience several times in their lifetime. Headaches are the most common condition of discomfort and a main cause of absence from work or school as well as for doctor’s appointment. Most headaches are harmless, but certain types may indicate a more serious problem.

Types of headaches

There are over 150 types of headaches and all are divided into two main categories namely,

  • Primary headaches
  • Secondary headaches.

Primary headaches

Primary headaches are caused by the dysfunction or overactivity of pain-sensitive feature in head. They do not indicate or result from a medical illness. Some people may have genes that increase their risk of developing primary headaches.

Types of Primary Headaches

  • Tension-type headaches (the most prevalent type of primary headache)
  • Cluster headaches
  • Headaches from migraines.
  • NDPH (New daily persistent headaches)

Primary headaches can also be induced by some lifestyle factors including

  • Alcohol, especially red wine
  • Some foods, such as nitrate-containing processed meats (food-induced headaches).
  • Nicotine use (causes a headache)
  • Sleep changes or sleep deprivation
  • Sloppy posture
  • Exercise and other forms of physical exertion (exertion headaches)
  • Missed meals (headache from hunger)
  • Excessive laughing or weeping, coughing, blowing nose, sneezing, straining (while having bowel movement)

Primary headaches are usually not dangerous, but they can be very painful and interfere with your daily activities.

Secondary headaches

Secondary headaches are caused by an underlying medical illness. They are seen as a sign or symptom of a disease. Secondary headaches are not dangerous and can be resolved once the underlying illness is treated.

Types of Secondary Headaches:

  • Dehydration headache
  • Headaches by the sinus
  • Headaches from overuse of medications.

Secondary headaches of the following type may indicate a serious or potentially fatal condition:

  • Spinal headaches: A spinal headache is a severe headache that develops after a spinal tap, usually when spinal fluid leaks from the membranes that cover your spinal cord. The majority of spinal headaches are treatable at home, but protracted, untreated spinal headaches can result in potentially fatal side effects such subdural haemorrhage and seizures.
  • Thunderclap headaches: A thunderclap headache is a severe headache that appears suddenly like a clap of thunder. This headache reaches its peak intense pain within one minute and lasts for at least five minutes. Although thunderclap headaches are rarely harmful, it is still important to seek immediate medical attention. They could indicate a head injury, bleeding in the brain, cerebral vasoconstriction syndrome with reversibility, a sharp, unexpected increase in blood pressure.