Cluster Headache; Headaches; Tension Headache
Article: Headache Information Page
What is Headache?
A headache happens when pain-sensitive nerve fibers (called nociceptors) are triggered in the network of nerves that extends over the scalp, face, and along the surface and the base of the brain. Ninety percent of all headaches are triggered by stress or tension. These muscle contraction headaches usually resolve on their own or with the help of over-the-counter painkillers. Other types of headache have different triggers and are not as easily treated. Doctors classify headaches as belonging to one of the following classes:
- Muscle contraction headaches are caused by sustained tension in the muscles of the face and neck. The pain is usually mild to moderate and feels like pressure is being applied to the head or neck.
- Vascular headaches are caused by abnormal blood flow changes in the brain. This type includes migraine headaches; toxic headaches due to fever or exposure to triggering chemicals such as MSG, insecticides, or solvents; and cluster headaches, which strike in groups or clusters over several weeks to a month. Vascular headaches are characterized by intense, throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head.
- Traction headaches happen when nerve fibers are pulled, stretched, or displaced, for example, by squinting to compensate for poor eyesight. Brain tumors can also cause traction headaches as they press against pain-sensitive blood vessel walls. Traction headaches typically feel as if a strong pressure is being applied to the head.
- Inflammatory headaches are caused by irritation or infection of the arteries or nerves in the head, sinuses, spine, neck, ears, or teeth. Arteritis, an inflammation of arteries in the head, and meningitis, an inflammation of the brain's outer covering, are examples of this type of headache. Pain is usually mild to moderate and can be periodic or continuous depending on its cause.
Most headaches can be easily diagnosed, since types of headaches tend to have clear-cut symptoms that fall into recognizable patterns. If a headache isn't relieved by standard treatments, people may be referred to a specialist.
Is there any treatment?
What is the prognosis?
What research is being done?
Select this link to view a list of studies currently seeking patients.
|American Council for Headache Education |
19 Mantua Road
Mt. Royal, NJ 08061
Tel: 856-423-0258 800-255-ACHE (255-2243)
|National Headache Foundation |
820 N. Orleans
Chicago, IL 60610-3132
Tel: 773-388-6399 888-NHF-5552 (643-5552)
Source: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Cache Date: December 15, 2004