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By DAD Ayurveda Clinic Staff

Your headache symptoms can help your doctor determine its cause and appropriate treatment. Most headaches are not the result of a serious illness, but some can result from a life-threatening condition that requires emergency care.

Headaches are generally classified by causes:

Primary headaches

A primary headache is caused by overuse or problems with the pain-sensitive structures in your head. A primary headache is not a symptom of any underlying cause.

Chemical activity in your brain, the nerves or blood vessels around your skull, or the muscles in your head and neck (or some combination of these factors) may play a role in a primary headache. Some people may also have genes that make them more likely to develop these types of headaches.

The most common primary headaches are:

  • Cluster headache
  • Migraine
  • Migraine with aura
  • Tension headache

Trigeminal autonomic cephalgias (TAC), such as cluster headache and paroxysmal hemicranias

Certain headache patterns are also generally considered to be primary headache types but are less common. These headaches have distinctive features, such as an unusual duration or pain associated with a certain activity.

Although generally considered primary, each can be a symptom of an underlying disease. They include:

  • Chronic daily headaches (for example, chronic migraine, Chronic tension-type headache, or hemicranias continua)
  • Cough headache
  • Exercise headache
  • Sex headache

Primary headaches are triggered by lifestyle-related causes, including:

  • Alcohol, especially red wine
  • foods, such as rancid food, processed drinks, processed meats that contain nitrates
  • Sleep changes or lack of sleep
  • Poor posture
  • Left foods
  • Stress

Secondary Headaches

A secondary headache is a symptom of a disease in which the pain-sensitive nerves that cause the headache are activated. Any condition that varies greatly in severity can cause a secondary headache.

Possible causes of secondary headaches include:

  • Acute sinusitis (nasal and sinus infection)
  • Arterial tears (carotid or vertebral dissections)
  • A blood clot within the brain (venous thrombosis) different from a stroke
  • Brain aneurysm
  • Brain AVM (arteriovenous malformation)
  • Brain tumor
  • Carbon monoxide poisoning
  • Chiari malformation. There are structural defects in the cerebellum. This is the part of the brain that controls pain balance
  • Concussion
  • Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)
  • Dehydration
  • Dental problems
  • Ear infection (middle ear)
  • Encephalitis (brain inflammation)
  • Giant cell arteritis. (inflammation of the lining of the arteries)
  • Glaucoma (acute angle closure glaucoma)
  • Hangovers
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Influenza and other febrile illnesses
  • Intracranial hematoma
  • Medications to treat other disorders
  • Meningitis
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Overuse of pain medication
  • Panic attacks and panic disorder
  • Persistent post-concussive symptoms (Post-concussion syndrome)
  • Pressure from tight headgear. such as a helmet or goggles
  • Pseudo-tumor cerebrum (idiopathic intracranial hypertension)
  • Stroke
  • Toxoplasmosis
  • Trigeminal neuralgia (as well as other neuralgia, all involving imitation of certain nerves connecting the face and brain)

Some types of secondary headaches include:

  • (Commonly called brain freeze)
  • Medication overuse headache (due to overuse of pain medication)
  • Sinus headache (due to swelling and congestion in the sinus cavities)
  • Spinal headache (due to low pressure or volume of cerebrospinal fluid, possibly the result of spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid leakage, spinal tap, or spinal anesthesia)
  • Thunderclap headaches (a group of disorders that include sudden, severe headaches from multiple causes)

The causes shown here are commonly associated with this symptom.

Work with a DAD Ayurveda doctor or other health care professional for an accurate diagnosis.