Migraine Headaches: Signs and Symptoms


Signs and symptoms of migraine headaches include:

• Abnormal body sensations, called paresthesias, such as tingling, numbing or prickling
• Diarrhea
• Dizziness or vertigo
• Lightheadedness
• Nausea and vomiting
• Scalp tenderness
• Sensitivity to light
• Visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or blind spots in your vision

Migraines are the most common cause of vascular headache, affecting 26 million Americans. About 15 percent of women and 6 percent of men experience these headaches. They are characterized by recurrent attacks, with pain most often on one side of the head, accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light and sound. Although migraines can occur at any time of day or night, they tend to be more frequent in the morning. Routine activity or slight head movement typically makes the pain worse.

Episodes can last from several hours to several days and often are disabling. During the attack, pain may travel from one part of the head to another and may radiate down the neck into the shoulder. Scalp tenderness occurs in the majority of patients during or after an attack. Migraines tend to run in families and often are hereditary. If you have migraines, chances are another family member does as well.

Cluster Headaches: Signs and Symptoms

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Cluster headaches are recurring attacks of excruciating, stabbing pain on one side your head, usually behind the eye. Men experience cluster headaches eight times more often than women do. These headaches occur nearly every day or several times a day for weeks or months, and then disappear for several months or even years. Attacks may last from 15 minutes to three hours, and often occur during the night.

There are two kinds of cluster headaches — episodic and chronic. In episodic cluster headaches, there are long, pain-free remissions. In chronic cluster headaches, there are no long remissions. If during the past year or longer, you experience periods of only a week or less of relief between headache attacks, you may be diagnosed with chronic cluster headaches. About 10 percent of cluster headache sufferers have the chronic condition.

Other symptoms usually occur on the side of the head where burning or penetrating pain is felt in or around an eye. Occasionally the pain extends to your forehead, nose, cheek or upper jaw. Other symptoms include:

• Red or teary eyes
• Runny or stuffy nose
• Facial swelling

Cluster headaches usually don’t run in families and don’t appear to be hereditary.

Tension Headaches: Signs and Symptoms


Tension headache is the word used to describe chronic headaches that cause a tight, band-like pain. This is the most common type of headache, afflicting 88 percent in women and 68 percent in men. Tension headaches account for nearly half of all headaches, according to a study done in 2007 in Cephalagia (head pain). Researchers have estimated that more people suffer from tension headache than a migraine. A tension headache is a mild to moderate steady pain, tightness or pressure around the head and neck. These headaches may be provoked by the stress and frustrations of everyday life, eyestrain, or poor posture. The causes include muscle contractions or changes in brain chemicals. In 2006 and 2007, several studies presented the theory that tension headaches may be caused by myofascial trigger points in the shoulders and neck and poor head posture.

Some researchers suggest that tension headaches may be related to fibromyalgia, a condition that is also characterized by myofascial pain. When tension headaches occur on a daily or almost daily basis, they are called chronic daily headaches. Sometimes other symptoms appear with these headaches like fatigue, sleep disturbances, and depression. Tension and migraine headaches can and often do occur together, and many doctors believe that the two types of headaches are caused by the same.