A HEADACHE is a very common condition that causes pain and discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck. It is estimated that seven in 10 people have at least one headache each year. Headaches can sometimes be mild, but in many cases, they can cause severe pain that makes it difficult to concentrate at work and to perform other daily activities. Luckily, most headaches can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes.

Types of Headaches

There are three common types of headaches: tension headaches, cluster headaches, and migraines.

Tension Headaches

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache and occur most frequently in women over age 20. These headaches are often described as feeling like a tight band around the head. They are caused by a tightening of the muscles in the neck and scalp. Poor posture and stress are contributing factors. Tension headaches usually last for several minutes, but in some cases, they can last for several days. They also tend to be recurrent.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are non-throbbing headaches that cause excruciatingly severe, burning pain on one side of the head or behind the eye and usually cause the eyes to tear up and nasal congestion or rhinorrhea (runny nose). These headaches can last for extended periods of time, known as the cluster period. The cluster period can be as long as six weeks. Cluster headaches may occur every day and more than once a day. The cause is unknown; however, this type headache is rare and generally affects men age 20-40. Alcohol intake may trigger a cluster headache during a cluster period.


Migraines are the most severe and complex type of headache. Researchers believe they may be caused by changes in the activity of nerve pathways and brain chemicals. Genetic factors and environmental factors are also thought to affect a person’s susceptibility to developing migraines. They are very intense, throbbing headaches that affect one side of the head. Migraines can also increase sensitivity to light and noise. They may last anywhere from several hours to several days.

Types of Migraines

Nearly one out of every four households includes someone with a migraine. Migraines are one of the top 20 most disabling illnesses in the world.

Among adolescents, migraines are more common in boys than in girls. Among adults, however, migraines occur more frequently in women than in men. They are also more likely to affect those who have family members that often experience migraines.

There are two basic types of migraine headaches: migraine with aura and migraine without aura. Auras are visual disturbances that consist of bright spots, flashing lights, or moving lines. In some cases, auras cause a temporary loss of vision. These visual disturbances occur about 30 minutes before the migraine begins and can last for 15 minutes. Migraine with aura tends to be less severe and disabling than migraine without aura. However, most people experience migraine without aura.

Migraine Triggers

The exact cause of migraines isn’t known. However, there are numerous factors that are known to trigger the onset of migraine episodes. These include:

• fluctuating hormone levels, especially among boys going through puberty, and women

• stress or anxiety

• fermented and pickled foods

• cured meats and aged cheeses

• certain fruits, including bananas, avocados, and citrus

• skipped meals

• too little or too much sleep

• bright or strong lights

• fluctuations in atmospheric pressure due to changing weather

• drinking alcohol

• caffeine withdrawal


Dangerous Headache Symptoms

Most headaches aren’t symptoms of a life-threatening illness. However, you should contact your doctor if a headache occurs after head trauma. You should also call your doctor immediately if a headache is accompanied by the following Symptoms:

• drowsiness

• fever

• vomiting

• facial numbness

• slurred speech

• weakness in an arm or a leg

• convulsions

• confusion

Pressure around the eyes with a yellowish-green nasal discharge and sore throat also should be evaluated by your doctor.

If you are having a problem dealing with headaches please speak to one of our friendly pharmacists. We are even available on Whatsapp/Facebook to see to your queries. (Tel:033 815 1690) - Supplied by Royal Pharmacy

We live in a world where facts and fiction get blurred
In times of uncertainty you need journalism you can trust. For only R75 per month, you have access to a world of in-depth analyses, investigative journalism, top opinions and a range of features. Journalism strengthens democracy. Invest in the future today.
Subscribe to News24
Lockdown For
Voting Booth
When a Covid-19 vaccine for under 16's becomes available, will you be taking your children to get it?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
Yes, immediately!
38% - 3725 votes
I'll wait to see how others respond
26% - 2538 votes
No, I don't think they need it
37% - 3609 votes
Brent Crude
All Share
Top 40
Financial 15
Industrial 25
Resource 10
All JSE data delayed by at least 15 minutes morningstar logo