The most common primary headaches
Primary headaches occur when the pain in your head is the condition. In other words, your headache isn’t being triggered by something that your body is dealing with, like illness or allergies.
These headaches can be episodic or chronic:
- Episodic headaches may occur every so often or even just once in a while. They can last anywhere from half an hour to several hours.
- Chronic headaches are more consistent. They occur most days out of the month and can last for days at a time. In these cases, a pain management plan is necessary.
1. Tension headaches
If you have a tension headache, you may feel a dull, aching sensation all over your head. It isn’t throbbing. Tenderness or sensitivity around your neck, forehead, scalp, or shoulder muscles also might occur.
Anyone can get a tension headache, and they’re often triggered by stress.
2. Cluster headaches
Cluster headaches are characterized by severe burning and piercing pain. They occur around or behind one eye or on one side of the face at a time. Sometimes swelling, redness, flushing, and sweating can occur on the side that’s affected by the headache. Nasal congestion and eye tearing also often occur on the same side as the headache.
These headaches occur in a series. Each individual headache can last from 15 minutes to three hours. Most people experience one to four headaches a day, usually around the same time each day, during a cluster. After one headache resolves, another will soon follow.
A series of cluster headaches can be daily for months at a time. In the months between clusters, individuals are symptom-free. Cluster headaches are more common in the spring and fall. They are also three times more common in men.
Doctors aren’t sure what causes cluster headaches, but they do know some effective ways to treat the symptoms. Your doctor may recommend oxygen therapy, sumatriptan (Imitrex) or local anesthetic (lidocaine) to provide pain relief.
Migraine pain is an intense pulsing from deep within your head. This pain can last for days. The headache significantly limits your ability to carry out your daily routine. Migraine is throbbing and usually one-sided. People with migraine headaches are often sensitive to light and sound. Nausea and vomiting also usually occur.
Some migraine is preceded by visual disturbances. About one out of five people will experience these symptoms before the headache starts. Known as an aura, it may cause you to see:
- flashing lights
- shimmering lights
- zigzag lines
- blind spots
Auras can also include tingling on one side of your face or in one arm and trouble speaking. However, the symptoms of a stroke can also mimic a migraine, so if any of these symptoms are new to you, you should seek immediate medical attention.
Migraine attacks might run in your family, or they can be associated with other nervous system conditions. Women are three times more likely to develop migraine than men. People with post-traumatic stress disorder also have an increased risk for migraine.
Certain environmental factors, such as sleep disruption, dehydration, skipped meals, some foods, hormone fluctuations, and exposure to chemicals are common migraine triggers.
If OTC pain relievers don’t reduce your migraine pain during an attack, your doctor might prescribe triptans. Triptans are drugs that decrease inflammation and change the flow of blood within your brain. They come in the form of nasal sprays, pills, and injections.
Popular options include:
- sumatriptan (Imitrex)
- rizatriptan (Maxalt)
- rizatriptan (Axert)
If you experience headaches that are debilitating more than three days a month, headaches that are somewhat debilitating four days a month, or any headaches at least six days per month, talk to your doctor about taking a daily medication to prevent your headaches.
Research shows that preventative medications are significantly underused. Only 3 to 13 percent of those with migraine take preventive medication, while up to 38 percent actually need it. Preventing migraine greatly improves quality of life and productivity.
Useful preventative medications include:
- propranolol (Inderal)
- metoprolol (Toprol)
- topiramate (Topamax)
Types of forehead pain and symptoms
The type of forehead pain you experience can tell you a lot about what’s happening inside your head. These are the most common types of forehead pain:
A deep, throbbing forehead pain may feel like it’s pulsating or coming in waves. It often seems “weighty” and feels like it’s putting a great deal of pressure directly onto your forehead. It may be persistent and last for hours if you don’t treat it. This type of forehead pain may be caused by migraine, a hangover, tension, or other issues.
Sharp, stabs of piercing pain can occur. These are often short in duration but intense in severity. Brain freeze, that painful sensation that occurs when you eat or drink something cold, is a common cause, as is a cluster headache. More serious issues, like an aneurysm, are also possible. However, these are rare.
Similar to throbbing pain, shooting pain feels continuous, but it may seem like trails of pain are shooting away from your forehead. This type of pain is common with conditions like hypertension and infection.
The most common secondary headaches
Secondary headaches are a symptom of something else that is going on in your body. If the trigger of your secondary headache is ongoing, it can become chronic. Treating the primary cause generally brings headache relief.
- allergy or sinus headaches
- hormone headaches
- caffeine headaches
- exertion headaches
- hypertension headaches
- rebound headaches
- post-traumatic headaches
How Medical Doctors treat forehead pain Headaches
Treatment for forehead pain will depend on the underlying cause. The most common treatment options include:
- Over-the-counter medications
- Prescription drugs
- Physical therapy
Headache symptoms you should worry about
A headache typically causes pain in your head, face, or neck area. Get urgent medical attention if you have severe, unusual pain or other signs and symptoms. Your headache may be a sign of an underlying illness or health condition.
Your headache pain may be serious if you have:
- sudden, very intense headache pain (thunderclap headache)
- severe or sharp headache pain for the first time
- a stiff neck and fever
- a fever higher than 102 to 104°F
- nausea and vomiting
- a nosebleed
- dizziness or loss of balance
- pressure in the back of your head
- pain that wakes you from sleep
- pain that gets worse when you change position
- double or blurred vision or auras (light around objects)
- face tingling and auras that last longer than an hour
- confusion or difficulty understanding speech
- droopiness on one side of your face
- weakness on one side of your body
- slurred or garbled speech
- difficulty walking
- hearing problems
- muscle or joint pain
- pain that begins after coughing, sneezing, or any type of exertion
- constant pain in the same area of your head
- night sweats
- unexplained weight loss
- tenderness or a painful area on your head
- swelling on your face or head
- a bump or injury on your head
- an animal bite anywhere on your body
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