What Are Headaches? Migraine Tension & Cluster Headaches

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There are many different headache types & about 28 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches. But what are headaches and what are the different headache types …

Headaches, everyone has them, but what are headaches?

Despite how common they are, headaches really are a little mysterious.

Unlike, say diabetes, it isn’t known exactly what produces that particular headache pain or exactly what are headaches. And; making the affliction even stranger, there are in fact many different types of headache.

What are Headaches - Cluster Headache Pain

Headache Types – An Overview

What are Migraine Headaches …Migraines afflict about 28 million Americans, in a ratio of about three women to one man. Yet, despite regularly affecting 10% of our enormous population, the causes (and cures) still remain unknown.

Contemporary research suspects the interaction of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, with the nerve cells is responsible, but no one knows for sure … more on migraine headaches

What are Cluster Headaches … Cluster headaches, which only attack about a third of one percent of the population, are even more intense than migraines. Yet, here again, scientists can only hint at what causes that stabbing pain behind your eye or temple.

What are Headaches - Stress Migraine HeadachesCluster headaches tend to occur around the same time every day for weeks or months, lasting for an hour or less each time.

They then disappear for long periods and no-one knows why, though some suspect a defective hypothalamus is responsible … more on cluster headaches

What are Tension Headaches … Ordinary or tension-type headaches are the most common type, yet even here the causes are very rarely understood.

There are many common contributors – stress, diet, posture and over 300 different medical conditions – yet precisely what produces that dull ache still remains a mystery … more on tension headaches

Headache Treatments …

Fortunately even though the causes, and often even accurate descriptions, are hard to pin down there are an abundance of headache treatments.

Though none are perfect, most are safe and effective for the vast majority of headache sufferers.

  • Ergots used to be the typical treatment for migraine patients, but to a large extent that has given way to triptans. The first generation had some drawbacks, but the new designs are safe, effective and have few side effects. No miracle cure, they can be taken at the onset of symptoms and reduce or eliminate the intense, throbbing pain of a migraine headache, familiar to so many.
  • Preventive medications have come a long way as well. Beta blockers or CCBs (Calcium Channel Blockers), anti-depressants, anti-seizure medications and a variety of others used to treat other illnesses turn out to be very effective. For many, they can keep headaches from occurring in the first place. In many cases, they don’t eliminate the occurence, but simply reduce the frequency. A welcome relief, for most sufferers who continually wonder what are headaches..
  • Then there are the traditional over-the-counter remedies – aspirin, acetaminophen (or paracetamol) and ibuprofen. The first two have been around for over 100 years and continue to provide millions with safe, effective relief. In fact, for such a simple compound, aspirin is a near wonder drug given how many medical conditions it can safely treat.

Naturally, both prescription and over-the-counter medications do carry some risks and the possibility of side effects. Gastrointestinal bleeding, stomach upset and other common conditions are likely for some, unlikely for others. In rare cases, those taking them can suffer vomiting, have bloody stools and even a headache (usually from overdosing).

But seeking medical advice, which oddly only about half of migraine sufferers ever do and those suffering from tension headaches almost never, is still a good idea.

An occasional mild headache may not warrant the time and expense.

But for chronic or intense headaches, there may well be an underlying medical condition that should be diagnosed and treated. So-called ‘secondary headaches’ are common.

Pregnant women in particular should pay close attention to diet and medications consumed. Large hormonal and other changes commonly intensify the discomfort and frequency of headaches. A proper diagnosis and treatment regimen should be sought right away.

So then, What are headaches?

Well, it may be some time yet before medical science uncovers what headaches really are or defines the fundamental causes of headaches.

Brain Food for a healthy brainUntil they do we will just have to wait for better more effective treatments to be developed. And, until then focusing on specific lifestyle choices is probably the best idea.

Even when the causes are unknown, headache treatments can be, at least partly, a matter of choice.

Summarising headaches; What are they & what to do about them?

Well although headaches are very common, they may be a sign of serious disease that warrants immediate medical attention.

Go to an emergency department if any of the following symptoms occur. Severe pain, pain that develops very rapidly, a change in concentration or ability to think, a change in level of alertness, altered speech, weakness, numbness, or difficulty walking, changes in vision or if light hurts your eyes, headache with dizziness, room spinning, or falling to one side, headache from an injury or blow to the head, or a headache with a fever over 100.4F or 38C.