The three types of primary or benign headaches include cluster, tension and migraine.
1) Cluster headaches are relatively rare. They commonly awaken you in the middle of the night with severe pain most frequently on one side of the head or near an eye (although they can occur anywhere on the head, neck or face), and they can recur frequently for a period of time before falling into remission.
2) Tension headaches are the most common type and typically result in mild to moderate pain often described as a band tightened around the head.
3) Migraine headaches are considered the most severe with recurring and throbbing pain, typically affecting one side of the head. They frequently affect vision with sensitivity to light and cause nausea as well. Migraines are believed to be caused by changes in the stem of the brain and its connections with the trigeminal nerve which runs from from the base of the skull, supplying feeling to the forehead, cheek and lower jaw.
Enlarged blood vessels release pain-causing chemicals. Many patients report an “aura” just prior to experiencing a migraine attack. This can include visual disturbances like flashing, confusion, numbness, dizziness or other neurological symptoms.
Three times more common in women than men, migraines typically run in families and start in early adulthood but can affect children as well.
The cause of migraine is believed to be a combination of genetics and environment. Triggers can include stress, alcohol, caffeine, estrogen/menstruation, weather changes, lack of sleep, strong odors, specific foods, dehydration and hunger
Specific treatment for migraine varies by patient and can include avoidance of environmental triggers, dietary changes, medication, injections, occipital nerve stimulation and nerve blocks.