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Everyone gets the occasional headache and sometimes it is bad enough to need painkillers. Apart from being painful, headaches can sometimes be a worry because sufferers will wonder why they keep getting them. Headaches can be somewhat divided into four main types - tension headaches, recurring headaches, infection headaches and serious headaches.

Tension Headaches
Most headaches are of this type and some people suffer from them nearly every day. They are cause by contraction of the muscles in the face, neck and scalp. The pain is usually a dull ache and often starts at the back of the head before spreading to the crown and forehead. There is also a sensation of pressure. Most people assume that tension headaches are caused by psychological stress but other things such as tiredness or bad posture can cause them, too. These headaches are also common in people who spend a lot of time driving or using a computer. Tension headaches are not usually severe but they can go on for a long time. The only way to cure them is to relax; painkillers don't do much good because they don't affect the underlying cause.

Recurring Headaches
These are severe headaches which recur but which have a definite beginning and end. They include migraines and cluster headaches. Although they are very painful they are rarely fatal. Migraines can again be divided into two types - common migraine and classic migraine. Common migraine involves a pulsating, one-sided, severe headache combined with nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to noise and light. Classic migraine has the added discomfort of an aura which comes on about half an hour before the headache. Migraine symptoms may last anything from two hours to three days. During that time most sufferers find that movement is painful, light hurts their eyes, smells are nauseating and noises are unbearable. It can be brought on by all kinds of things. Overwork and tiredness are common triggers. The most common dietary culprits are red wine, strong cheese and chocolate. Cluster headaches usually affect just one side of the face, centering on the eye. The eye is often red and watery and many sufferers also get a runny nose. The pain is continuous and lasts for anything between 15 minutes and 3 hours. It may return several times a day for 6 to 12 weeks and this is called the cluster period. These headaches affect more men than women and are particularly common in people who drink and smoke a lot. The cause is unknown but it seems likely that some kind of irritation to the facial nerve is to blame. Although cluster headaches are different from migraines, they can often be stopped by the migraine drug, sumatriptan.

Infection Headaches
Sudden, severe attacks, often accompanied by other symptoms, are usually linked with another condition such as an infection or in some cases a brain hemorrhage. Practically all infections may cause headaches, but sometimes head pains are the main symptom. For example, sinusitis often shows up through recurrent headaches. The pain from sinusitis is usually towards the front of the head and around the eyes and it feels worse if you lower your head or stay in a stuffy atmosphere. Medication for sinusitis is prescribed according to what is causing it. A severe headache also accompanies meningitis, which is an inflammation of the tissues surrounding the brain due to infection. If not diagnosed at once, it can be fatal. Other symptoms of meningitis include a stiff neck, fever and vomiting.

Serious Headaches
Most headaches are benign but sometimes they point to something seriously wrong which needs immediate attention. Sometimes head pain can be a sign of stroke, which occurs when the blood supply to the brain becomes blocked. A stroke usually happens very quickly and the patient is literally struck down. Tumours very rarely show up as headaches but occasionally can cause a dull or throbbing head pain which gets worse if the patient leans forward. Temporal arteritis is a serious condition that usually affects elderly people. One of the arteries that runs up the side of the skull becomes inflamed and the sufferer experiences severe one-sided head pain and the area around the temple becomes very tender to the touch. It can cause sudden, irreversible blindness and needs to be treated immediately with high-dose steroids to avoid damage. If blood pressure is very high it causes a severe, throbbing headache accompanies by blurry vision and dizziness.

Once you have an idea of what is causing your headache, get the medical attention that you need. In less serious cases, you can buy some medications over the counter.