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Symptoms of Headache

Head pain is associated with all headaches, but different types of headache have specific symptoms.

Tension Headache

Tension headache symptoms usually start slowly and build. They include:
  • Constant, steady pain and pressure
  • Dull and achy pain
  • Pain usually felt on both sides of the head, in the forehead, temples, and the back of the head
  • Pressure may feel like a tight band around the head
  • Intensity that ranges from mild to severe and can vary during the day
  • Tightness in head and neck muscles
  • Difficulty concentrating
Tension Headache: Areas of Pain
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Migraine Headache

Migraines occur in phases that may include the following:
  • A warning in the hours or days before the headache, in some cases, that may include:
    • A change in mood
    • Fatigue
    • Tense muscles
    • Yawning
    • Food craving
  • An aura that lasts about 15-60 minutes and may produce the following sensations:
    • Flashing lights or spots
    • Temporary, partial loss of vision
    • Speech difficulties
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Numbness or tingling first that begins in the hands and spreads to the arms and finally to the face and mouth, including the lips and tongue
    • Restlessness
    • Confusion
  • Migraine pain that starts within an hour of the aura ending:
    • A headache, usually on one side but may involve both sides
    • Typically, the headache feels intense, throbbing, or pulsating and is more severe with movement
    • Nausea or vomiting
    • Diarrhea
    • Sensitivity to light or sound
    • Sore or achy muscles
    • Lightheadedness
  • A post-headache period that usually lasts for 4-72 hours and often goes away with sleep. After the headache, you may experience:
    • Trouble concentrating
    • Fatigue

Cluster Headache

Cluster headache involves stabbing, penetrating, burning, or explosive head pain that:
  • Is on one side of the head
  • Often starts around the eye and spreads to the same side of the head
  • Can occur daily or almost every day for 4-8 weeks
  • Can occur 1-8 times per day
  • Often occurs at about the same time each day
  • Increases in intensity over time
  • May start within two hours of going to sleep
  • Can awaken you from sleep
  • May last up to three hours
  • May be accompanied by restlessness and agitation
Symptoms of a Cluster Headache
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During the headache other symptoms may occur on the affected side, including:
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Redness or watering of the eye
  • Droopy eyelid
  • Constriction of the pupil of the eye
  • Facial swelling

Sinus Headache

Sinus headache symptoms include:
  • Pain and tenderness behind the forehead and cheeks and around the eyes
  • Pain in the back of the neck or upper teeth
  • Pain ranging from mild to severe
  • Pain that is more intense first thing in the morning
  • Pain that may worsen when you bend over
  • Headache occurring with other symptoms of sinusitis, including:
    • Nasal stuffiness and congestion
    • Thick nasal drainage
    • Post-nasal drip
    • Fever
    • Fatigue
    • Stuffy ears
    • Sore throat
    • Cough
    • Puffiness around the eyes
Sinus Headache: Areas of Pain
IMAGE
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

References

Friedman DI. Idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Curr Pain Headache Rep. 2007;11(1):62-68.

Headache—frequently asked questions. National Headache Foundation website. Available at: http://www.headaches.org/education/Tools%5Ffor%5FSufferers/Headache%5F-%5FFrequently%5FAsked%5FQuestions. Accessed November 18, 2013.

NINDS headache information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/headache.htm. Updated November 8, 2013. Accessed November 18, 2013.

Revision Information

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