A migraine headache is a throbbing or pulsating headache that is often one sided (unilateral) and associated with nausea; vomiting; sensitivity to light, sound, and smells; sleep disruption; and depression.
Migraine attacks are often recurrent and tend to become less severe as the migraine sufferer ages.
Types of Headaches
Primary headache accounts for about 90% of all headaches. There are three types of primary headache: tension headache, cluster headache, and migraine.
Tension headache is the most common type of primary headache. Episodes usually begin in middle age and are often associated with the stresses, anxiety, and depression that can develop during these years.
Cluster headaches occur daily over a period of weeks, sometimes months. They may disappear and then recur during the same season in the following year.
Secondary headache is associated with an underlying condition such as cerebrovascular disease, head trauma, infection, tumor, and metabolic disorder (e.g., diabetes, thyroid disease). Head pain also can result from syndromes involving the eyes, ears, neck, teeth, or sinuses. In these cases, the underlying condition must be diagnosed and treated. Also, certain types of medication produce headache as a side effect.
Severe, sudden, and debilitating secondary headache that develops after a blow to the head, that interferes with normal activity, or that accompanies other symptoms (e.g., convulsions, disorientation, dizziness, loss of consciousness, pain in the eye or ear, fever) should be evaluated by a physician as soon as possible.
Incidence and Prevalence of Headache
In the United States, over 45 million people-including more than the 33 million sufferers of asthma, diabetes, and heart disease-experience chronic, recurring headaches. Of these, 28 million suffer migraine every year.
Approximately 75% to 90% of all persons who complain of chronic or frequent headaches suffer from tension headache. Tension headache is more prevalent among women than men. Cluster headaches primarily affect men between the ages of 20 and 40.