Headaches are among the most common ailments treated at an urgent care clinic. According to the World Health Organization, up to 1 in every 20 adults experience tension headaches everyday or nearly everyday. However, despite being a common health concern, still not everyone fully understands headaches--for instance, what are the types of headaches? What are the causes of headache?
Furthermore, it does not help that headaches have been identified as one of the symptoms of COVID-19. As such, anyone who experiences a headache these days could easily worry and wonder whether they have COVID.
With this article, your trusted provider Urgent Care of The Palm Beaches aims to shed light on this widespread condition to inform and help you determine when it’s time to see a doctor for your headache.
What Are the Types of Headaches?
When a throbbing sensation in your head halts your everyday activities, and disables you from functioning, it is crucial to determine what type of headache you are suffering from. Some headaches are caused by stress, exhaustion, or dehydration and can be easily dealt with. However, some of them shouldn’t be ignored and may require a visit to the doctor’s office since they may be symptoms of an underlying serious health condition. Here are the three main types of headaches:
1. Cluster Headache
Cluster headaches are often described as the most excruciating ones. They last for a relatively short amount of time, but they can be severe and may recur every day for several weeks or even months. Patients usually describe it as a debilitating pain on one side of the head and may spread out to the eye and temple area. Other common symptoms involve nasal discharge, watery eyes, small pupils, or agitation. The exact causes of cluster headaches remain unknown.
Some clinical experts believe that alcohol, smoking, or prior head trauma might be just a few of the possible triggers. As far as the treatment goes, it’s a bit more complex than simply taking an aspirin and waiting for the pain to go away. It should be taken care of in an urgent care or hospital setting. Treatments may include injecting sumatriptan, oxygen, steroid injections, etc.
If you struggle with ongoing cluster headaches, we encourage you to schedule an appointment with any of our urgent care clinics and let us provide you with the most effective treatment options to relieve your pain.
2. Migraine Headache
Migraines are far more common than cluster headaches and in some cases might be hereditary. It is characterized by a throbbing pain only on one side of the head. Migraines are typically accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound or lightheadedness.
We differentiate two types of migraines: with and without aura. How do they vary? Patients who suffer from migraines with aura additionally experience visual, sensory and verbal troubles. Migraines without auras are more common. The pain typically lasts for several hours to about three days. In the treatment of a migraine, it is important to avoid its triggers, including caffeine, lack of sleep or poor diet. It can also be treated with anti-inflammatory medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or other NSAIDS.
3. Tension Headaches
Tension headaches are the most common type of primary headaches and cause mild to moderate pain. They’re typically described as dull pain on both sides of the head that may spread from the neck, eyes, or lower back of the head. Typically, it’s a lot less severe than cluster headaches or migraines. It can be easily treated by ibuprofen or aspirin, and sometimes an ice pack placed on the painful area may bring relief too.
In order to prevent tension headaches, physicians recommend practicing relaxation techniques to help manage stress, which is one of the possible causes of this type of headache. Other factors believed to contribute to tension headaches are poor sleep, dehydration, bad posture and anxiety. This kind of pain can also go away by itself.
Other Headache Classifications
Aside from the three main types of headaches above, experts have also identified the following as separate types of their own:
Chronic or Daily Headaches
If you experience a headache for 15 days or more within 1 to 3 months, it may be diagnosed as a chronic headache. These headaches can last for a short while at a time, but some people may experience them for up to 4 hours.
This type of headache occurs when your sinuses, the cavities in the head, are inflamed. It can make you feel a seemingly ‘deep’ pain in your forehead, cheekbones, and the bridge of the nose. In some cases, you may also feel a dumb pain in your jaw. Sinus headaches often occur together with other sinusitis symptoms, such as runny nose, nasal congestion, and sore throat.
If you’ve been in an accident that caused a head injury, it’s possible that you’ll experience post-traumatic headaches within 2 to 3 days from the time of the accident. Post-traumatic headaches symptoms include:
- A dull ache that gradually gets worse
- Memory and concentration problems
Have you been in an accident recently? Make sure that you seek an urgent care to get proper and timely treatment. This will prevent the development of symptoms and side-effects such as post-traumatic headaches.
What Causes Headaches?
In general, you feel headaches due to the mix of signals between your blood vessels, nerves, and brain. A headache occurs when specific nerves inside the blood vessels switch on and send pain signals to the brain. What isn’t clear is what switches these nerves on in the first place.
However, headaches often take place as a symptom or effect of the following:
- Stress – Emotional stress, as well as the things you might do in relation to your stress (e.g. drinking alcohol, changing sleeping patterns, skipping meals, overeating, and medicating), can trigger headaches.
- Illness – Health problems such as infections and colds can also cause headaches.
- Genetics – As mentioned above, migraines are thought to be hereditary. So, if anyone in your family has it, you may experience migraine headaches, too.
- Environment – If you get exposed to strong smells, chemicals, pollution, and allergens, it’s also possible to experience headaches. Weather changes can also trigger a headache episode.
“I Have a Headache: Is it COVID?”
Now that we’re in the middle of a pandemic, many people can’t help but associate any symptoms they experience with COVID. Headaches, for instance, is one of the known symptoms of COVID-19. However, you should keep in mind that having a headache does not necessarily mean you have the virus. In general, a COVID-19 headache has the following characteristics:
- Moderate to severe in pain intensity
- Comes with a pressing or pulsing sensation
- Occurs on both sides of the head
- Can get worse as you bend over
- Occurs with other known COVID-19 symptoms, such as fever, dry cough, and/or shortness of breath
To know whether your headache is caused by COVID, it’s recommended to get COVID-19 testing in Palm Beach.
How to Treat Headaches?
There is not one treatment method for all types of headaches. This is why your doctor may try different methods until they find which works for you. It’s also crucial to determine the type of headache you are experiencing, as the course of treatment will heavily depend on it. For instance, if it’s likely that you’re suffering from post-traumatic headaches, the doctor will request further tests to address the root of the problem.
Seek Urgent Care to Rule Out Possible Causes and Get the Right Treatment
If you regularly experience severe headaches that prevent you from normal functioning and enjoying your life, it is crucial to seek professional help. Our Palm Beach County clinics will give you the care that you deserve in no time. Schedule an appointment with any of our locations:
Contact us today or visit our website for more information about the services we provide at our facility.
The material contained on this site is for informational purposes only and DOES NOT CONSTITUTE THE PROVIDING OF MEDICAL ADVICE, and is not intended to be a substitute for independent professional medical judgment, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your health.