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Headache : Types, Diagnosis and Treatment


Types, Diagnosis and Treatment

Do you know that:

  • Around 60 – 70 % of world population suffer from headache?
  • Do you know that there are 276 types of headache?


Primary Headache

90% of headache conditions are known as primary headache which is considered a disease by itself and not a sign for another disease. Primary headache happens as a result of physiological and functional disorders in the blood vessels and pain-sensitive structures in the head which lead to the feeling of pain.

  1. Tension Headache:
    It is the most common type of headache where 40 – 60% of patients experience headache refer to this type. The pain associated with tension headache is generally a diffuse, mild to moderate pain in the whole head but may begin in the back of the head. The pain is often described as a band-like sensation around the head or as a muscle tension in the neck or shoulder region. 
  2. Migraine:
    Migraine is preceded by premonitory warming symptoms (aura), such as flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling in the arm or leg. The pain is usually unilateral and is commonly accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Females are four times at risk of having migraine than males. A migraine attack lasts from hours to days.

  3. Cluster Headache:
    This type of headache is rare and it usually affects young men especially the smokers.
    Cluster headache occurs in cyclical patterns or clusters. Typically, it causes tearing/watering of the eye, redness of the conjunctiva or rhinorrhea or nasal stuffiness. The pain of a cluster headache is very severe and difficult to treat.
  4. Drug Overused Headache:
    This type of headache occurs as a result of excess use of pain killers especially patients who suffer from other forms of headaches. The pain of drug overused headache is often described as a tight band feeling around the whole head. 

  5. Secondary Headache:

It formulates around 10% of the total headaches and it happens due to an underlying disease such as meningitis, brain tumor, stroke, intracranial bleeding, sinusitis, glaucoma, dental problems and many other causes.   


It is very important to accurately identify the type and causes of headache using the following approaches:

Patient's complete history and detailed description of the pain.

Physical and neurological exams.

Computerized tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) to provide a comprehensive view and detailed images of the brain and blood vessels.

Blood tests if required.


Secondary headache: treat the underlying cause.

Primary headache: the treatment differs according to the type of the headache and it generally includes:

  • Acute treatment: take the medicine prescribed by your doctor at the time of the attack.
  • Preventive treatment: starts at the onset of the episode and taken regularly with the goal of suppressing attacks.

General Instructions:

  • Stick to a regular sleep schedule.
  • Stick to a regular healthy diet.
  • Take medicines regularly and on time.
  • Avoid excessive use of analgesics.
  • Manage your stress level by planning ahead and considering enough time for relaxation.
  • Exercise on regular basis.
  • Consult your doctor especially when there is a change in the pain pattern.

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