Headaches are one of the most common pain-related health problems in both children and adults. You may have a headache along with another minor health problem such as a sore throat, cold, or sinus problem.
Types of headaches
The most common types of headaches usually are not serious but may occur again and again.
- Reference Tension headaches Opens New Window are the most common type of headache and are often caused by stress and emotional strain. Most adults have tension headaches from time to time, and everyone may have different Reference areas of pain Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window.
- Reference Cluster headaches Opens New Window
- Reference Migraine headaches Opens New Window. Approximately one-third of people who have migraine headaches first began having them as teenagers.
Common causes of headaches
Common causes of headaches include:
- Alcohol, caffeine, or other drug use or withdrawal.
- Changes in the levels of chemicals in the body (Reference neurotransmitters Opens New Window).
- Coughing or sneezing.
- Reference Dehydration Opens New Window.
- Dental problems or procedures, such as pain from grinding the teeth or from a root canal.
- Eating or drinking cold foods and fluids.
- Emotional stress.
- Exposure to smoke or fumes from chemicals, including Reference carbon monoxide Opens New Window.
- High altitude. Lower oxygen levels at high altitudes can cause headaches.
- High blood pressure (Reference hypertension Opens New Window).
- Infection in the Reference sinuses Opens New Window Reference Opens New Window, such as Reference sinusitis Opens New Window or an Reference abscess Opens New Window.
- Medical procedures, such as the aftereffects of a lumbar puncture (spinal tap).
- Reference Medicines. Many medicines can cause headaches.
- Muscle strain in the neck, upper back, or shoulder muscles.
- Upper respiratory infections.
- Reference Premenstrual syndrome Opens New Window (PMS).
Headaches with other serious symptoms
Although rare, a headache may be a Reference symptom of a serious illness. Other symptoms, such as vomiting, dizziness, or changes in vision, may also be present. The following serious illnesses or injuries can cause headaches.
- A head injury:
- Injury to the brain (Reference concussion Opens New Window)
- Fracture of the skull
- Bleeding in or around the brain
- Reference Brain tumor Opens New Window, which causes swelling within the brain
- Infection in the brain (Reference encephalitis Opens New Window) or of the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord (Reference meningitis Opens New Window)
- Reference Stroke Opens New Window, a problem that occurs when a blood vessel (artery) that supplies blood to the brain bursts or is blocked by a blood clot
- A rupture of a blood vessel with bleeding in or around the brain (Reference aneurysm Opens New Window)
Reference Check your symptoms to decide if and when you should see a doctor.
|By:||Reference Healthwise Staff||Last Revised: Reference April 17, 2012|
|Medical Review:||Reference William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Reference H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine