Headaches are currently defined as any form of pain that occurs in the head, face, or neck of the human body. This pain occurs through the structures that encompass the head and neck, and can be felt through any of these areas from the many nerves, blood vessels, muscles, and tissues that encompass your face, even your eyes, ears, and nasal cavities. Headaches can occur occasionally, or chronically depending on the type and cause of their occurrence. The classification system as written and published by the International Headache Society organizes headaches by four major categories: tension-type headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, and those headaches that occur in the cranial nerves.
Tension-type headaches are the only ones most of us will encounter in our lives, occurring in nine of out ten adults at least once. The level of pain associated with a tension type headache varies, but is usually less severe than the other three types of headaches. In most cases tension-type headaches cause mild levels of tightness and pressure anywhere along the face, neck, and areas of the head. A tension-type headache can be caused from stress, dehydration, and even caffeine in some cases.
Migraines range in moderate to severe pain, and can cause nausea, vomiting, and increased sensitivity to sound and light. Researchers have surmised that these well-known headaches occur in four phases. The prodrome, the initial stage of migraines, causes drowsiness and stiff muscles. The second phase, dubbed the aura, only occurs in 30 percent of migraine sufferers at most, and can affect either motor movements or your sensory input. For example, one may experience flashes of light or zigzag lines in vision, pins and needles sensations in your arms and hands, as well as the face and mouth. The third migraine phase is the actual pain, on one or both sides of the head, lasting anywhere between 4 hours and three days. The last phase is called the postdrome, and causes a sore feeling in the areas where pain was, as well as exhaustion and a general weakening of cognitive abilities. Only 6% of men and 18% of women will experience a migraine in their lives.
Cluster headaches are the most rare form of headaches, affecting only .1% of the population, and mostly males in their late 20’s. Known for its piercing pain in the area of the eye, a cluster headache is usually isolated to one side of the face. While they only last up to 90 minutes at a time, cluster headaches are called such because they can occur multiples throughout the day. Patients who suffer from cluster headaches often report experiencing them three times a day on a regular basis. Those who suffer from any type of headache on a frequent basis should not hesitate to inform their local doctor, as this could be a symptom of a greater problem at hand.
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