Headache is the symptom of pain anywhere in the region of the head or neck. It occurs in migraines (sharp, or throbbing pains), tension-type headaches, and cluster headaches. Frequent headaches can affect relationships and employment. There is also an increased risk of depression in those with severe headaches. Although many people use the term “migraine” to describe any severe headache, a migraine headache is the result of specific physiologic changes that occur within the brain and lead to the characteristic pain and associated symptoms of a migraine. Migraine headaches usually are associated with sensitivity to sound, light, and smells. Some people have symptoms of nausea or vomiting. This type of headache often involves only one side of the head, but in some cases, patients may experience pain bilaterally or on both sides. The pain of a migraine is often described as throbbing or pounding and it may be made worse with physical exertion.
Not all headaches represent migraines, and migraine is not the only condition that can cause severe and debilitating headaches. For example, cluster headaches are very severe headaches that affect one side of the head in a recurrent manner (occurring in a “cluster” over time). The pain is sometimes described as “drilling,” and can be worse than migraine pain in some cases. Cluster headaches are less common than migraine.
Tension headaches are a more common cause of headache. These occur due to contraction of the muscles of the scalp, face, and neck.