What is a headache? What is a migraine?
A headache is basically a pain in the head region. They can be isolated to one particular spot or occur on both sides of the head. Sometimes they can even radiate across the head. It can be a sharp pain, throbbing sensation or dull ache. They can appear all at once or gradually build up. They can last for a few minutes or for several days. Some headaches can be sign of more serious conditions which require urgent medical attention – see below for more details.
A migraine is a type of headache. A less common type of migraine is called a "migraine with aura." If you notice different feelings and symptoms before the migraine onset, it is termed an "aura" and the symptoms are called a "prodrome." Some of the other types of headaches include cluster headaches and tension-type headaches.
What causes a headache? What causes a migraine?
If the headache isn't caused by another condition, it is called a "primary headache." These types of headache are thought to be caused by problems with or the overactivity of pain-sensitive structures in the head. Other factors which may play a part include the brain's chemical activity, the nerves or blood vessels outside the skull, or the head or neck muscles. There may also be a genetic influence in making someone more likely to suffer from headaches.
Some people find that a headache or migraine can be brought on by triggers such as drinking alcohol (particularly red wine) or by certain foods (e.g. by processed meats that contain nitrates), changes in sleep or lack of sleep, poor posture, skipped meals or by stress.
Headaches can be a sign of a serious condition, such as a stroke, meningitis, encephalitis or a brain tumor. You should go to a hospital emergency room or call 911 or your local emergency number if you have a terrible headache accompanied by one or more of the following: confusion or trouble understanding speech, fainting, high fever, numbness, weakness or paralysis on one side of your body, a stiff neck, nausea or vomiting (if not clearly related to the flu or a hangover), or any trouble seeing, speaking or walking.
Disclaimer: The statements made on this page have not been evaluated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). They are not intended to diagnose, cure or prevent any disease. If a condition persists, please contact your physician or healthcare provider. The information provided is not a substitute for a face-to-face consultation with a healthcare provider, and should not be construed as medical advice.