Nikhil Hospitals

different types of headaches

What are the different types of primary headache? What type do you have?

Headache is the symptom of pain in the face, head, or neck. Primary headaches are headaches that are not the result of another medical condition. Primary headaches include migraines, ​tension-type headaches, and cluster headaches, while secondary headaches are due to an underlying problem in the head or neck, including bleeding in the brain, infections, brain tumour, or meningitis and encephalitis. This is the difference between primary and secondary headaches. There is also an increased risk of depression in those with severe headaches. 

Headaches can occur as a result of many conditions. There are a number of different classification systems for headaches. Causes of headaches may include dehydration, fatigue, sleep deprivation, stress, the effects of medications, the effects of recreational drugs, viral infections, loud noises, common colds, head injury, rapid ingestion of very cold food or beverage, and dental or sinus issues. 

Migraine Headache

An important cause of primary headaches, a migraine is an episodic, disabling headache that can last between a few hours and a few days.

Some studies show that migraines are more common among women, with headache episodes occurring more frequently during the perimenstrual period, as a result of changes in oestrogen hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. Premenstrual migraines occur during or after the time when the female hormones, oestrogen and progesterone, decrease to their lowest levels.

Symptoms of Migraine include:

  1. Intense throbbing and pulsating pain.
  2. Unilateral pain that begins or remains on just one side of the head.
  3. Nausea or vomiting.
  4. Sensitivity to stimuli such as lights, sounds and smells.
  5. Maybe aggravated by physical activities, especially coughing or bending over. Etc.

Treatment for Migraine

A large variety of treatment options are available for acute migraine. The array of options is wide. The ideal migraine agent would relieve the pain and associated symptoms of Migraine Headache rapidly and completely, without causing severe, debilitating, or frequent side effects. Migraine treatment is aimed at stopping symptoms and preventing future attacks.

Many medications have been designed to treat migraines. Medications used to combat migraines fall into two broad categories:

  • Pain-relieving medications. Also known as an acute or abortive treatment, these types of drugs are taken during migraine attacks and are designed to stop symptoms.
  • Preventive medications. These types of drugs are taken regularly, often daily, to reduce the severity or frequency of migraines.

Tension headache

This is the most common type of primary headache, occurring in up to 90 per cent of adults in their lifetime. The exact cause of a tension headache is not known, although physical and emotional stress can cause the muscles that cover the skull to contract and cause pain.

Symptoms of a tension headache include:

  1. Pain that feels like a tight band pressing around the head, with the most intense pressure over the eyebrows.
  2. Pain is usually mild, dull and steady, not throbbing or disabling, and bilateral.
  3. No nausea or vomiting associated with the headache.
  4. Occurs infrequently and without a pattern, but can also occur frequently or even daily.


Tension headaches are caused by muscle contractions in the head and neck regions.

These types of contractions can be caused by a variety of

  • Foods
  • Activities
  • Stressors

Some people develop tension headaches after staring at a computer screen for a long time or after driving for long periods. Cold temperatures may also trigger a tension headache.

Other triggers of tension headaches include:

  • Alcohol
  • Eyestrain
  • Dry eyes
  • Smoking
  • A sinus infection
  • Caffeine
  • Emotional stress
  • Decreased water intake
  • Lack of sleep
  • Skipping meals
  • Fatigue
  • Poor posture

Cluster headache

A rare type of primary headache (about 0.1 per cent incidence) more common among men in their late 20s, although cluster headaches can also occur among women and children.

Symptoms of a cluster headache include:

  • Headache attack often wakes patient from sleep at a similar time every night
  • Pain always occurs on the same side, usually over one eye, which causes tearing and redness of the eye.


There’s no cure for cluster headaches. The goal of treatment is to decrease the severity of pain, shorten the headache period and prevent the attacks.

Because the pain of a cluster headache comes on suddenly and might subside within a short time, cluster headache can be difficult to evaluate and treat, as it requires fast-acting medications.

Some types of acute medication can provide some pain relief quickly. The therapies listed below have proved to be most effective for acute and preventive treatment of cluster headache.

Preventive treatments

Preventive therapy starts at the onset of the cluster episode with the goal of suppressing attacks.

Determining which medicine to use often depends on the length and regularity of your episodes. Under the guidance of your doctor, you can taper off the drugs once the expected length of the cluster episode ends.

Dr Nikhil Sunkarineni has a vast knowledge in diagnosing and treating different types of headaches. They have treated hundreds of people suffering from different types of headaches in Hyderabad. They carefully listen to the concerns of the patients and provide the best Headache Treatment options. Click here to Book an Appointment.

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