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Headache FAQs


What types of headaches are there?

There are two basic types of headaches, primary and secondary. A primary headache is brought on by pain-sensitive components in your head or by over-activity. A primary headache is not a symptom of another, underlying disease. Secondary headaches are associated with another ailment.

What causes headaches? 

Primary headaches, which include migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches, are caused by various factors, including stress, certain foods, changes in sleep patterns or lack of sleep, skipped meals, changes in weather or environment, alcohol consumption, and poor posture.

Secondary headaches are related to any number of illnesses or conditions, including acute sinusitis, brain aneurysm, concussion, dehydration, hangover, ice cream consumption, and more. 

What is a sinus headache and what are the symptoms? 

Sinus headaches occur when a sinus, which is a cavity in the bones of the skull or face, becomes inflamed and swells. Usually this condition is caused by an infection or an allergic reaction, although it may be related to a tumor. The pain, which may be dull and throbbing or sharp and quick, is felt in the facial area and, sometimes, the side of the head. Usually sinus headaches are treated with decongestants, antihistamines and/or antibiotics.

What is a tension headache and what are the symptoms?

Tension headaches tend to occur when someone is feeling anger, frustration, anxiety, or fatigue. These headaches usually start in the temples and work their way to the back of the head. Symptoms associated with these headaches include a tightening feeling around the head and soreness in the temples. Tension headaches are often treated with over-the-counter or prescription medicines and may also respond to relaxation therapy and biofeedback. 

What is a cluster headache and what are the symptoms?

Cluster headaches, which are thought to be caused by chemical reactions in the brain, are so named because they come in groups. These headaches, which are often manifested on one side of the head, can begin with very little warning. Along with the pain, cluster headaches often induce a runny nose and/or a bloodshot or tearing eye on the same side of the head in which the headache resides. These headaches can be very intense and severe and may be treated with prescription medications and oxygen.

What is a migraine and what are the symptoms?

A migraine headache is defined by an intense, throbbing pain in one area of the head. These headaches, which usually start as a dull ache, can last for hours or even days. Symptoms include nausea, extreme sensitivity to light and sound, vertigo, dizziness, and vomiting. The pain may be in the front or back of the head, on either side of the head, on both sides of the head or in the temples. Many times people will lie down in a dark, quite place until the headache goes away. About 15% of those who have migraines will experience an aura before the headache manifests.

What is an aura? 

Prior to a migraine establishing itself about 15% of those affected see an aura. Auras are thought to be the signs of neurological symptoms related to the developing migraine. Theses are often composed of dots, wavy or jagged lines, or flashing lights. Auras may be accompanied by tunnel vision, auditory or visual hallucinations, blind spots and/or the disruption of various senses, including taste, smell, or touch.

Additional symptoms include difficulty in repeating or saying the correct word, a feeling of numbness, or a pins and needles sensation in the body. Auras usually occur before the onset of the migraine and tend to last about an hour.

How do triggers affect migraines?

A trigger, which is what causes a migraine, may be an environmental or physical situation that develops. Migraine triggers vary for each individual. Some common triggers include weather or atmospheric changes, foods, stress, and hormonal changes. Keeping a diary of what conditions exist when a migraine develops is a good way to track these headaches in order to determine your triggers and possibly circumvent them.

Are migraines dangerous? 

Migraines, when left untreated, can be debilitating. However, a migraine unto itself is not considered to be dangerous. There have been some studies linking migraines to increasing one’s risk of stroke and structural brain lesions. However, the increase overall is minimal. There is also some inconclusive evidence that has connected migraines to dementia and cognitive decline. However, these findings are in doubt due to the small number of people studied. 

How can migraines be treated?

There are a range of treatments and therapies for migraines. These include various over-the-counter and prescription medications, acupuncture treatment, injections, and relaxation training and biofeedback. Also herbal therapies, acupressure, and yoga have been used to treat these headaches.


Gershon Pain Specialists
1133 First Colonial Road
Virginia Beach, VA 23454
Phone: 757-496-2050
Fax: 757-689-4357

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