It can be difficult to tell apart different type of headaches, however, writing down a few key symptoms of the headaches and discussing them with the doctor, may help the doctor find out what type of headache and the treatment needed.
This guide will help introduce you to the most common types of headaches and their major symptoms.
- Tension headaches
Experts believe that tension headaches may be caused by the contraction of neck and scalp muscles (including in response to stress), or changes in brain chemicals.
A tension headache feels like a constant ache or pressure around the head, particularly at the temples or back of the head and neck. Tension headaches are usually not as severe as migraines, and they do not cause nausea or vomiting. It might feel worse around light or noise (but not both). It can last for minutes to several days.
- Cluster headaches
Cluster headaches are characterized by piercing pain that usually gets very bad very fast (within 5 to 10 minutes) and is located on one side of the face, head, or neck.
Other symptoms may include watery eyes and small (constricted) pupils, nasal congestion or runny nose, droopy or swollen eyelids, and sweating on the forehead or face.
During cluster headaches attacks, people often feel restless and unable to get comfortable. Lying down may make the headache worse.
- Sinus headaches
Sinus headaches occur when a sinus becomes inflamed (often due to an infection). The deep and constant pain is usually located around the eyes, cheekbones, forehead, and bridge of the nose. The pain usually intensifies with sudden head movement or straining.
The headache is usually accompanied with fever, green or gray discharge from the nose (lasts more than 7 to 10 days), a runny or stuffy nose, a feeling of fullness in the ears (or plugged ears), and a swelling of the face.
- Migraine headaches
The pain from a migraine is usually moderate to severe. It can be described as pounding or throbbing pain that can affect the whole head, or shift from one side of the head to the other.
Symptoms of migraine headaches can occur in various combinations. They include sensitivity to light as well as noise or odors, blurred vision, fatigue, fever (rare), and dizziness. The symptoms might also include loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting, abdominal pain, paleness, and sensations of being very warm or cold. A migraine may be also foreshadowed by aura, such as visual distortions.
Learn more about the different types of headaches in this infograph.