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Symptoms of different kinds of headaches

Head pain is a common symptom of many headaches, but some types of headache may have additional symptoms, including nausea and vomiting.

Tension headaches

People with tension headaches commonly report these symptoms:

Episodic tension headaches (occurs less than 15 days per month)

  • Pain is mild to moderate, constant band-like pain, pressure or throbbing
  • Pain affects the front, top or sides of the head.
  • Pain usually begins gradually, and often occurs in the middle of the day
  • Pain may last from 30 minutes to several days

Chronic tension headaches (occurs more than 15 days per month)

  • Pain may vary in intensity throughout the day, but the pain is almost always present
  • Pain affects the front, top or sides of the head
  • Pain comes and goes over a prolonged period of time

Associated symptoms of tension headaches include:

  • Headache upon awakening
  • Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Disturbed concentration
  • Mild sensitivity to light or noise
  • General muscle aching

Cluster headaches

  • Intense one-sided pain described as having a burning or piercing quality that is throbbing or constant
  • Pain is located behind one eye or in the eye region, without changing sides
  • Pain lasts a short time, generally 30 to 90 minutes. But, it can last from 15 minutes to three hours. The headache will disappear only to recur later that day (most sufferers get one to three headaches per day during a cluster period).
  • Headaches occur very regularly, generally at the same time each day, and they often awaken the person at the same time during the night.

Sinus headaches

  • Deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead or bridge of the nose
  • The pain usually intensifies with sudden head movement or straining and usually occurs with other sinus symptoms, such as nasal discharge, feeling of fullness in the ears, fever, and facial swelling.

Seek medical advice about headaches if:

  • You have severe headaches.
  • You notice changes in your vision, weakness or paralysis in a body part, or difficulty with balance and walking, especially if these problems do not resolve after the headache is over.
  • You develop a high temperature or stiff neck.
  • You have unintentional weight loss.

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on September 09, 2014

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