The Complete Headache Chart

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Allergy Headaches

Symptoms: Generalized headache; nasal congestion; watery eyes

Precipitating Factors: Seasonal allergens, such as pollen, molds. Allergies to food are not usually a factor.

Treatment: Antihistamine medication; topical, nasal cortisone related sprays; or desensitization injections

Prevention: None

Learn more about the relationship between allergies and headaches.

Aneurysm

Symptoms: May mimic frequent migraine or cluster headaches, caused by balloon-like weakness or bulge in blood-vessel wall. May rupture (stroke) or allow blood to leak slowly resulting in a sudden, unbearable headache, double vision, rigid neck. The individual rapidly becomes unconscious.

Precipitating Factors: Congenital tendency; extreme hypertension

Treatment: If aneurysm is discovered early, treat with surgery.

Prevention: Keep blood pressure under control to prevent.

Arthritis Headaches

Symptoms: Pain at the back of head or neck which intensifies on movement. It is caused by inflammation of the blood vessels of the head or bony changes in the structures of the neck.

Precipitating Factors: Cause of pain is unknown

Treatment: Anti-inflammatory drugs, muscle relaxants

Prevention: None

Caffeine-Withdrawal Headaches

Symptoms: Throbbing headache caused by rebound dilation of the blood vessels, occurring multiple days after consumption of large quantities of caffeine.

Precipitating Factors: Caffeine

Treatment: Treat by terminating caffeine consumption in extreme cases.

Prevention: Avoiding excess use of caffeine.

The NHF project “New Perspectives on Caffeine and Headache” has all the information you need about the complex relationship between headache and caffeine.

Chronic Daily Headaches

Symptoms: Refers to a broad range of headache disorders occurring more than 15 days a month; two categories are determined by duration of the headache (less than four hours and more than four hours).

Precipitating Factors: Typically evolve from transformed migraine. Although not related to chronic tension-type headache, they can evolve from episodic tension-type headache. Can be associated with medication overuse.

Treatment: Depending on the type of CHD, different treatment options exist. It is important to limit analgesic use.

Prevention: Based on diagnosis of headache, how long they last, and the number experienced per month.

Cluster Headaches

Symptoms: Excruciating pain in the vicinity of the eye; tearing of the eye; nose congestion; and flushing of the face. Pain frequently develops during sleep and may last for several hours. Attacks occur every day for weeks, or even months, then disappears for up to a year. Eighty percent of cluster patients are male, most between the ages of 20 and 50.

Precipitating Factors: Alcoholic beverages; excessive smoking

Treatment: Oxygen; ergotamine; sumatriptan; or intranasal application of local anesthetic agent

Prevention: Use of steroids; ergotamine; calcium channel blockers; and lithium

Depression and Headaches

Symptoms: People with painful organic diseased tend to become depressed.

Precipitating Factors: Causes can originate from a wide variety of complaints that can be categorized as physical, emotional, and psychic.

Treatment: The presence of depression is often subtle and the diagnosis is frequently missed. Depression is a wide spread affliction that can be treated, but first it must be unmasked.

Prevention: Physicians can prescribe tricyclic antidepressants, selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, or monoamine oxidize inhibitors in the treatment of headaches associated with depression.

Eyestrain Headaches

Symptoms: Usually frontal, bilateral pain directly related to eyestrain. It is a rare cause of headache.

Precipitating Factors: Muscle imbalance; uncorrected vision; astigmatism

Treatment: Correction of vision

Prevention: Correction of vision

Exertional Headaches

Symptoms: Generalized head pain of short duration (minutes to an hour) during or following physical exertion (running, jumping, or sexual intercourse), or passive exertion (sneezing, coughing, moving one’s bowels, etc.)

Precipitating Factors: Ten percent caused by organic diseases (aneurysms, tumors, or blood vessel malformation). Ninety percent are related to migraine or cluster headaches.

Treatment: Cause must be accurately determined. Most commonly treated with aspiring, indomethacin, or propranolol. Extensive testing is necessary to determine the headache cause. Surgery is occasionally indicated to correct the organic disease.

Prevention: Alternative forms of exercise; avoid jarring exercises

Fever Headaches

Symptoms: Generalized head pain that develops with fever and is caused by the swelling of the blood vessels of the head.

Precipitating Factors: Caused by infection

Treatment: Aspirin; acetaminophen; NSAIDs; antibiotics

Prevention: None

Giant Cell Arteritis

Symptoms: A boring, burning, or jabbing pain caused by inflammation of the temporal arteries; pain, often around the ear, when chewing; weight loss; eyesight problems. This rarely affects people under 50.

Precipitating Factors: Cause is unknown. May be due to immune disorder.

Treatment: Steroids after diagnosis; confirmed by biopsy

Prevention: None

Hangover Headaches

Symptoms: Migraine-like symptoms of throbbing pain and nausea, but it is not localized to one side.

Precipitating Factors: Alcohol, which causes dilation and irritation of the blood vessels of the brain and surrounding tissue.

Treatment: Liquids (including broth); consumption of fructose (honey, tomato juice are a good source)

Prevention: Drink alcohol only in moderation

Hunger Headaches

Symptoms: Pain strikes just before mealtime. It is caused by muscle tension, low blood sugar, and rebound dilation of the blood vessels, oversleeping, or missing a meal.

Precipitating Factors: Strenuous dieting or skipping meals

Treatment: Regular, nourishing meals containing adequate protein and complex carbohydrates

Prevention: Regular, nourishing meals containing adequate protein and complex carbohydrates

Hypertension Headaches

Symptoms: Generalized or “hairband” type pain that is most severe in the morning. It diminishes throughout the day.

Precipitating Factors: Severe hypertension: over 200 systolic and 110 diastolic

Treatment: Treat with appropriate blood pressure medication

Prevention: Keep blood pressure under control

One member asks George Nissan, DO about the relationship between hypertension and headaches. Read Dr. Nissan’s answer here.

If you have a question for one of our headache care provider members, send us an email to info@headaches.org.

Menstrual Headaches

Symptoms: Migraine-type pain that occurs shortly before, during, or immediately after menstruation or at mid-cycle (at time of ovulation).

Precipitating Factors: Variances in estrogen levels

Treatment: At earliest onset of symptoms, treat using biodfeedback, ergotamine, dihydroergotamine, or a 5-HT agonist. Once pain has begun, treatment is identical to migraine without aura.

Prevention: Biofeedback; betablockers (propranolol, timolol); anti-convulsant (divalproex sodium); calcium blockers; and NSAIDs

Migraine with Aura

Symptoms: Warning signs develop, which may include visual disturbances or numbness in arm or leg. Warning symptoms subside within 30 minutes followed by severe pain.

Precipitating Factors: There is a hereditary component. Other factors include: Certain foods; the Pill or menopausal hormones; excessive hunger; changes in altitude; weather; lights; excessive smoking; and emotional stress.

Treatment: At earliest onset of symptoms, treat using biofeedback, ergotamine, dihydroergotamine, or a 5-HT agonist. Once pain has begun, treat with: ice packs; isometheptene; mucate; combination products containing caffeine; ergotamine; DHE injectable and nasal spray; 5-HT agonists; analgesics or medications, which constrict the blood vessels. Steroids may be helpful for prolonged attacks.

Prevention: Biofeedback; betablockers (propranolol, timolol); anti-convulsant (divalproex sodium); calcium blockers; and NSAIDs

Migraine without Aura

Symptoms: Severe, one-sided throbbing pain, often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, cold hands, sensitivity to sound and light

Precipitating Factors: There is a hereditary component. Other factors include: Certain foods; the Pill or menopausal hormones; excessive hunger; changes in altitude; weather; lights; excessive smoking; and emotional stress.

Treatment: Ice packs; isometheptene; mucate; combination products containing caffeine; ergotamine; DHE injectable and nasal spray; 5-HT agonists; analgesics or medications, which constrict the blood vessels. Steroids may be helpful for prolonged attacks.

Prevention: Biofeedback; betablockers (propranolol, timolol); anti-convulsant (divalproex sodium); calcium blockers; and NSAIDs

New Daily Persistent Headache

Symptoms: Best described as the rapid development (less than three days) of unrelenting headache. Typically presents in a person with no past history of headache.

Precipitating Factors: Does not evolve from migraine or episodic tension-type headache. It begins as a new headache and may be the result of a viral infection.

Treatment: Can resolve on its own within several months. Other cases persist and are more refractory.

Prevention: Does not respond to traditional options, but anti-seizure medications, Topamax, or Neurontine can be used.

Post-Traumatic Headaches

Symptoms: Localized or generalized pain, can mimic migraine or tension-type headache symptoms. Headaches usually occur on daily basis and are frequently resistant to treatment.

Precipitating Factors: Pain can occur after relatively minor traumas, but the cause of the pain often difficult to diagnose.

Treatment: Possible treatment by use of anti-inflammatory drugs, propranolol, or biofeedback

Prevention: Standard precautions against trauma

Sinus Headaches

Symptoms: Gnawing pain over nasal area, often increasing in severity throughout day. Pain is caused by acute infection, usually with fever, producing blockage of sinus ducts and preventing normal drainage. Sinus headaches are rare. Migraine and cluster headaches are often misdiagnosed as sinus in origin.

Precipitating Factors: Infection, nasal polyps, anatomical deformities, such as deviated septum that blocks the sinus ducts

Treatment: Treat with antibiotics, decongestants, surgical drainage, if necessary

Prevention: None

Temporomandibular Joint (TMJ) Headaches

Symptoms: A muscle-contraction type of pain, sometimes accompanied by a painful “clicking” sound on opening of the jaw. It is an infrequent cause of headache.

Precipitating Factors: Caused by malocclusion (poor bite), stress, and jaw clenching

Treatment: Relaxation, biofeedback, and the use of a bite plate are the most common treatments. In extreme cases, the correction of malocclusion may be necessary

Prevention: Same as treatment

Tension-Type Headaches

Symptoms: Dull, non-throbbing pain, frequently bilateral, associated with tightness of scalp or neck. Degree of severity remains constant.

Precipitating Factors: Emotional stress, hidden depression

Treatment: Rest; aspirin; acetaminophen; ibuprofen; naproxen sodium; combinations of analgesics with caffeine; ice packs; muscle relaxants; antidepressants, if appropriate; biofeedback; psychotherapy; temporary use of stronger prescription analgesics, if necessary.

Prevention: Avoidance of stress; use of biofeedback; relaxation techniques; or antidepressant medication

Tic Douloureux Headaches

Symptoms: Short, jab like pain in trigger areas found in the face around the mouth or jaw; frequency and longevity of pain varies. It is a relatively rare disease of the neural impulses and is more common in women after age 55.

Precipitating Factors: Cause unknown, pain from chewing, cold air, touching face. If under age 55, may result from neurological disease, such as MS.

Treatment: Anticonvulsants and muscle relaxants, neurosurgery

Prevention: None

Tumor Headache

Symptoms: Pain progressively worsens; projectile vomiting; possible visual disturbances speech or personality changes; problems with equilibrium; gait, or coordination; seizures. It is an extremely rare condition.

Precipitating Factors: The cause of tumor is usually unknown.

Treatment: If discovered early, treat with surgery or newer radiological methods.

Prevention: None

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