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What are the common symptoms of headaches?

        Health | Headache

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Different types of headaches have different symptoms. So your experience of a headache will depend on what type of headache you have. The chart below lists the characteristic symptoms of the common types of headache.

You should not ignore any chronic headaches. Recurring symptoms from any of the headaches listed below can disrupt your life and cause you a great deal of suffering. You don't have to suffer from these headaches. All chronic headaches deserve medical attention.

Headache Type Common Symptoms
Migraine Without Aura
  • typically involves throbbing or pulsating pain on one or both sides of the head
  • pain usually lasts anywhere from 4 to 72 hours
  • severity may range from mild to excruciating
  • often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, and odors
Migraine With Aura
  • typically involves throbbing or pulsating pain on one or both sides of the head
  • pain usually lasts anywhere from 4 to 72 hours
  • severity may range from mild to excruciating
  • often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, and odors
  • aura begins 5 to 30 minutes before the headache pain and may involve:
    • visual symptoms, such as wavy or jagged lines, dots, flashing lights, tunnel vision, or blind spots in one or both eyes
    • changes in hearing and smell
    • a feeling of numbness or pins and needles in the face or head
    • difficulty finding the right word while speaking
Some of the above symptoms can also be warning signs of other very serious health problems. If you have any of these symptoms, it is important that you talk with your doctor.
Hormone-Related Migraine
  • pain on one or both sides of the head
  • nausea or vomiting
  • headaches worsen before or after the menstrual period, during the first trimester of pregnancy, or at the time of menopause
  • use of oral contraceptives or estrogen-replacement therapy can provoke or worsen headache pain
  • a general decrease in headaches after menopause
Tension-Type
  • moderate pain that may be associated with stress and generally disappears after the stress ends
  • headache feels like pressure or a tight band around the head and neck
  • pain may involve the teeth, forehead, and neck
  • headache may be associated with nausea, but not vomiting
  • pain usually occurs on both sides of the head
Cluster
  • stabbing sensation on one side of the head
  • can occur several times a day during a cluster cycle
  • cluster cycle can last for more than 6 weeks
  • attacks can last from 15 minutes to 3 hours
  • severe pain around one eye or temple, which may include swelling around the affected eye, or red eye
  • possible nasal congestion or runny nose
Some of the above symptoms can also be warning signs of other very serious health problems. If you have any of these symptoms, it is important that you talk with your doctor.
Rebound
  • mild to moderate dull pain around the front and back of the head
  • pain occurs daily or is continuous and associated with daily or near-daily use of pain medication
  • symptoms worsen over time and require the use of increasing amounts of pain medication

To learn more about a specific type of headache and its symptoms, go to What are the different types of headaches?


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