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  About Headaches Home >> About Headaches >> Primary Headaches  
Primary Headaches

Migraine is the most common of the primary headaches. Migraine headaches have long been considered a relatively harmless condition, but in some, the attacks can be very debilitating and recurrent episodes may wreak havoc on a person's quality of life and ability to take part in normal life activities. Yet, migraine sufferers often do not get the sympathy and understanding they deserve. Unlike a fracture or a sprain, there is little physical evidence of a headache and because there is no neurological deficit, and because they often look well, and recover completely once the attack is over, migraineurs are not taken seriously. In fact, one migraine patient even jokingly remarked, 'I wish I could move around in a wheel chair, so that people would believe that I am sick!'

Migraine needs to be understood as a genetically inherited vulnerability of the brain that causes an electrical and chemical instability of certain key brain centers that regulate blood vessels around the head and neck and control the flow of pain messages into the brain. This hyperexcitability of the brain makes it more prone to the influence of triggers in the environment and lifestyle.

Cluster Headache
Cluster headache, which is much less common than migraine, affects less  than 1% of the population. These headaches typically strike middle aged men. The pain is explosive and usually occurs around the eye, temple or forehead. It is generally accompanied by one or more of the following - tearing, drooping of the eyelid, nasal congestion, facial flushing and forehead sweating. The pain is more at night and usually awakens the sufferer one to two hours after the onset of sleep.

Headaches come in clusters of 4-12 weeks (thus the name!). The headaches then disappear for an average of one or more years, only to return again. Cluster head pain usually begins on one side of the head and stays there throughout the cluster period and occurs at nearly the same time every day, thus some people also call this headache 'alarm-clock headache'.

This is a headache where self-medication or  trigger-control will not help and where only medical treatment with specific drugs will help. Your specialist will be able to prescribe medications that are extremely effective in reversing most attacks and may also design a treatment program to prevent  the cluster cycles.
Tension - Type Headache

These are common and bearable headaches. Previously called muscle contraction headache, this is often the result of emotional or physical stress. The pain of tension-type headache is usually dull and diffuse and involves muscles at the base of the head, neck, forehead and temples, and is often described as a feeling like 'some weight on the head' or 'a tight band around the head'. Acute tension - type headache usually lasts only for a few hours and does not occur daily. The pain of chronic tension type headache occurs with greater frequency and the duration is much longer and can last for days or even weeks. There is no structural defect seen in tension-type headache.

There are other rare primary headaches that are less commonly seen and will need specific diagnosis through a specialist.
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