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Different Types of Headaches & When to Seek Care

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Headaches happen for a variety of reasons, with symptoms ranging from a slight irritation to severe pain. There are four different types of headaches that occur most often, and treatment for each can vary.

It’s important then to know about the kinds of headaches out there so that you can get yourself feeling better as quickly as possible, and even taking steps to prevent those headaches from reoccurring. Deciding when to go to urgent care and seek medical attention for a headache is also important information to have, particularly with headaches happening frequently or with increasing intensity. If you have any unusual symptoms coupled with your headache, you may want to visit your primary care provider or a walk-in clinic, like Reliant, to ensure that you receive proper medical care.

4 Different Types of Headaches

There are over 150 different types of headaches that may be causing you pain, but there are four that are the most common: migraine, tension, sinus, and cluster headaches.

You may also hear your health professional talk about primary headaches. According to the American Headache Society, a primary headache is a general term for a headache that is not caused by a separate condition, and the headache is the main problem for a patient. A secondary headache, however, is caused by a separate condition. For example, among the four common headaches described below, sinus headaches are considered secondary headaches. They are usually caused by an underlying condition, such as an infection.

Headaches can also be caused or exacerbated by environmental factors that come with living in Los Angeles including:

  • Smog, exhaust, and poor air quality
  • Stress or anxiety
  • Noise pollution and light pollution (migraine sufferers might experience this acutely)

Migraine Headaches

Over 30 million Americans suffer from migraine attacks, one of the most common severe headaches. Migraines can cause throbbing, light and sound sensitivity, and even nausea and vomiting over the course of hours and up to several days.

The exact cause of migraines is difficult to pinpoint, but as they are more common in women, researchers believe that hormonal changes may be a trigger. Alcohol, caffeine, smoking, changes in weather, medications, and stress can also cause the onset of a migraine. It is important then to understand your body’s triggers if you suffer from migraines.

Treatments for migraine headaches include over-the-counter pain relievers or various prescription medications to treat the symptoms of migraines, prevent migraines in the future, or to help reduce how often you experience migraine headaches. Your healthcare provider may also prescribe a medication to ease nausea symptoms if that is common with your migraines.

Woman getting a migraine headache a work

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common among the different types of headaches. They can cause pain on both sides of your head, or even in the back of the head and neck. This type of headache is most often linked back to stress or anxiety, but can also be caused by head injuries.

For tension headache relief, over-the-counter pain relievers are usually enough to treat this type of headache. Those with frequent tension headaches may benefit from additional lifestyle changes to address environmental triggers. A healthcare provider can also help you come up with a treatment plan for frequent tension headaches.

Woman getting a tension headache

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches can be sudden and severe, occurring on one side of your head. They’re known as cluster headaches as they come in groups over a certain period of time. Sometimes that can mean multiple headaches throughout the day, lasting anywhere from minutes to hours. Watery and irritated eyes and congestion are typical on the side of the face that is affected.

Unfortunately, it can be difficult to pinpoint triggers for cluster headaches. Doctors have found that symptoms worsen with alcohol once a series of cluster headaches has begun.

If you’re looking for how to treat a bad headache like a cluster headache, patients have found some relief with deep breathing exercises and over-the-counter melatonin supplements. Those with severe, recurring cluster headaches may also consider speaking to their healthcare provider about access to oxygen, a common treatment for this type of headache, or injectable treatments that may only be done in a doctor’s office.

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches can be mistaken for primary headaches, but if the pressure you’re feeling is accompanied by other symptoms, including stuffiness, fever, and any swelling in your face, a sinus headache is likely to blame. This is a secondary headache, are caused by inflammation and a buildup of pressure in your sinuses, most commonly due to allergies or infections.

For sinus headache relief, you’ll need to treat the underlying condition, first. If you have a sinus infection, that may mean antibiotics. Reliant urgent care locations in LA can help you treat sinus infections quickly and efficiently.

If you find that your sinuses are bothered by seasonal allergies, over-the-counter antihistamines and decongestants may offer you enough relief until the symptoms pass. With frequent sinus headaches, a healthcare provider can help you identify the causes and come up with an appropriate treatment plan.

Woman getting a sinus headache

When to Seek Care

It’s important to pay attention to the frequency and severity of your headaches to determine when you should seek care. If you’re someone who does not often suffer from headaches and find yourself experiencing debilitating pain, or are vomiting, losing consciousness, or find that your vision has been affected, visit urgent care for your headache immediately. Headaches that last more than 72 hours with less than four hours of relief in that time are also cause for immediate concern.

You shouldn’t ignore headaches that are less than debilitating, however. If you find that your headaches are becoming more frequent or more severe, an urgent care center like Reliant can help you find some relief. If daily activities are becoming difficult due to problems with headaches, a healthcare provider can help.

Looking for migraine urgent care or headache urgent care? The health professionals at Reliant are standing by to answer questions about any headache symptoms you may have. Meet with a doctor virtually and potentially skip long waiting times and an in-person visit to the doctor’s office. Book an appointment online today and return to your regular day-to-day activities, headache-free.