Everyone knows them and many have them – there is talk of a headache. Maybe right now when you’re reading, you’re literally blaring your skull. Or a slight pressure is spreading in the head that is uncomfortable and painful. The response of most sufferers is similar – they resort to known painkillers. However, this quick grip on medicines is not always your best bet. Why? The physicians distinguish several headache types – up to 200.
The reason for this large number is different distinguishing features or causes and symptoms of specific headache types. For example, headaches can be triggered by external stimuli, have a purely biological cause, are associated with illness or can also be caused by the intake of medication. Fact: Headache is not the same as headache.
Chronic or acute – when headaches torment us
You have probably also suffered from headaches over the past 12 months. This puts you in good company. According to a study, about 60 percent of the population in Germany suffer from headaches on a 12-month average. Women are much more affected. While the frequency varied between 50 and 55 percent in the male participants, it reached values between 65 percent and 70 percent among the female study participants. Particularly severe are the headache limitations for about five percent of the German population – suffering from a daily headache.
What are headaches but actually? In general, it is understood as meaning a pain sensation in the area of the skull, the meninges, the blood vessels as well as the brain and upper spinal nerves. Depending on the cause, it is referred to as a primary headache when the pain is the trigger of the condition. A secondary headache, on the other hand, is when the pain is caused by a disease or an organ condition (such as tumors).
And also with regard to appearance, the individual headache types differ. In some cases, they only appear acutely. Patients complain of discomfort for only a few hours to a few days. In contrast, a headache disorder can also occur chronically. Where exactly the dividing line lies differs from headache disease to headache disease. In a migraine and tension-type headache – the two most common clinical pictures – medics speak of chronic disease when the pain occurs on 15 days per month over a longer period (in tension-type headache over six months).
The different types of headache
Since headaches can be classified according to their origin in primary and secondary headache as well as the type of pain, a precise representation of the individual headache types is difficult. The most common and common types include tension-type headache and migraine. While the latter is described with recurrent attacks of pain, which may be accompanied by a pulsating and hemiplegic headache as well as photophobia, nausea, and vomiting, the tension-type headache is described as pulling-pushing and without the migraine-typical accompanying symptoms.
The so-called cluster headache (also known as Bing-Horton neuralgia) has repeatedly appeared in the media and medical literature over the past few years. Unlike the widespread tension-type headache, which manifests itself bilaterally, in the case of boring cluster headache, strong preference is given to one side of the head (in the area of the eye/temple). Patients also report extreme pain, which can begin shortly after falling asleep, in the morning or at lunchtime. Although the exact cause of a cluster headache is unclear, studies suggest hypothalamic involvement and activation of the trigeminal nerve. The latter is involved in a whole group of headaches – trigemino-autonomic headache disorders, which include not only cluster headaches but also SUNCT syndrome and paroxysmal hemicrania. Here is an overview of the most important headache types:
- Tension headaches
- Cluster headache
In addition, modern medicine knows other types of headaches, such as:
- Sexual headache (occurs more frequently in men during sexual intercourse)
- Headache associated with the cervical spine
- Headache associated with vascular disease (eg Horton-Magath-Brown syndrome)
- Headache due to tension (eg the masticatory muscles)
- the sensation of pain in hemorrhages in the brain fluid.
Also known to be headache as a result of drug use (as a side effect), drug abuse, drug overdose or their withdrawal. This form of pain covers a wide range of different symptoms (maybe half or bilateral, dull, throbbing or pulsatile). But not only diseases such as tumors, but vascular inflammations can also cause a headache. Even greater effort – for example, when coughing or sports – are known as a trigger for headache attacks, which can last up to 24 hours. And not to forget the position-dependent headache, which can occur for example in acute or chronic sinusitis in appearance.
Headaches can not only be extreme, depending on the cause and course of the attacks are characterized by a variety of symptoms. Sometimes pain remains the only noticeable symptom. In diseases such as migraine in addition to changes in perception, nausea and vomiting may be added.