There it is again. That drumming behind the eyes that will soon send you looking for pain relief and a quiet room. This is how many patients feel with the recurrence of their headaches. Since it’s happening frequently and frequently has similar triggers, it could likely be a migraine. There is a variety of headaches that can lead to suffering and disability. While all of them have the same (your head hurts!) result, many of them have different causes and are managed differently. Since more than a few of these headache types are indicative of a serious medical condition, it’s important to learn the differences between them. Read on to learn whether that “migraine” should have you running for aspirin, or to the doctor.
Headaches can be classified into 3 major groups:
- Cranial, facial and “other”
Working through this classification system can provide physicians with information about possible causes and management options. Each main group has specific hallmarks.
Primary headaches comprise mostly of migraine, tension type headaches, cluster type headaches and other primary headaches.
While anyone at any age is unfortunately vulnerable to headaches, some headaches are more prevalent among specific gender and age groups. Women are three times more likely to have migraines than men. Men are twice as likely as women to have cluster headaches. While primary headaches can have biological causes, stress is often a common trigger.
Secondary headaches are mostly related to trauma or side effects of medical intervention. This includes head injuries, whiplash injury, spinal or intracranial bleeding, or following a brain surgery. Patients with very high blood pressure and brain tumors can also present with headaches. These may result from strokes, brain hemorrhage, inflammation, and vascular defects. Non-vascular causes include cerebral spinal fluid pressure changes, infections and tumors. These may also be related to substance or drug abuse or infections.
The third group comprises neuralgias, facial pains, and other headaches. In these patients headaches are a result of involvement of nerves including shingles, occipital headaches and glossopharyngeal neuralgia
Recurring headaches or an episode of a severe headache should not be ignored. The good news is that once types and causes been identified, physicians specializing in pain medicine may be able to help. These doctors may use techniques including injections that help ameliorate pain and improve function. Your headaches may not be an official migraine and may be a symptom of a serious medical condition. In those situations a more radical approach might be necessary and would require consultation with a qualified professional.