Headache, the dull or intense pain in the head is the most common health condition and many of us must have experienced that pounding or piercing sensation in the head occasionally, if not quite often.

But do you know that all headaches are not same? Though a common complaint, there are different types of headaches and each pain requires a varied approach towards diagnosis and treatment.

According to World Health Organization (WHO) headaches affect the entire population across all continents and the frequency is alarmingly high, with 1 in every 20 people groaning in pain, every single day.

Different types of headache

There are over 150 types of headaches and they are broadly categorized into two groups:

1.Primary Headaches

These befall a person, when the pain in the head is the main complaint. The most common amongst primary headaches are of the tension, cluster and migraine type.

2.Secondary Headaches

These are a sign that another underlying condition is triggering the pain in the head, in the affected person. The most common secondary headaches are due to allergies/sinus infections, and hormonal changes.

Each one of these five types of headaches – tension, cluster, migraine, sinus and hormonal, has certain distinct causes and symptoms. Understanding them can help in accurate diagnosis and ensure that, in more severe cases, timely medical intervention can be provided.

Types of Primary and Secondary Headaches:

Tension Headaches

This type causes a dull, throbbing pain all over the head. It is also accompanied by sensitivity in the region of the scalp, forehead, neck and shoulders. Tension headaches usually develop due to leading a very stressful life.

Reducing stress levels can effectively decrease the intensity of pain in this condition.

Over the counter analgesics (pain relievers) efficiently help to subside the headache.

Cluster Headaches

These are typified by a burning and piercing agony behind one eye, or one side of the face. At times, swelling, flushing and sweating also ensue on the side where the headache has occurred.

The exact cause has not yet been identified but lowering stress and screen time can prevent this type of headache.

Since this is a severe headache, the doctor will prescribe anti-inflammatory drugs and local anesthetics for alleviating the prolonged pain.

Migraine Headaches

In this kind of headache, one typically encounters a thumping pain that can last for days. Also common in migraines are nausea, vomiting and seeing blind spots that disturb normal vision.

Genetic and environmental factors can both trigger migraines.

Depending on the intensity of pain, either OTC pain relievers or anti-inflammatory drugs prescribed by a physician will help to reduce nagging migraines.

Allergy/Sinus Headaches

In this case, severe pain can occur in the sinus regions (hollow cavities within the skull behind your facial muscles) as well as in the front of the head.

These are caused due to allergic reactions, that can be both seasonal and due to other contributing factors, such as certain foods.

OTC decongestants, as well as antihistamines (anti-allergy medicines) and nasal steroid sprays prescribed by a healthcare provider will assist in treating sinus headaches.

Hormone Headaches

Women, after attaining puberty, often undergo headaches due to fluctuations in their hormone levels. This pain is distributed in all regions of the head, and usually lasts only for a few days.

The onset of the menstrual cycle, taking birth control pills and pregnancy can all prompt this type of hormone headaches in women.

Either OTC medications, or prescription pain relievers given by a doctor aid in managing this condition, besides alternative remedial techniques such as a modified diet and yoga.

Diagnosis And Treatment:

The treatment depends on the type of headache you have been suffering from. If the pain persists for more than a week, it’s time to see the doctor. Visit ophthalmologist to rule out vision related headaches. A neurologist would be able to help in other types of severe headaches. Do not use over-the-counter medications for long-term.

A detailed scan, MRI and other imaging tests would help the doctor diagnose the type of headache and decide upon the course of treatment.