Types of Chronic Headaches

Types of Chronic Headaches

Headaches which are also referred to as Cephalalgia,  are one of the most common complaints encountered by the primary care physician all around the world. There could many causes that lead to a headache in everyday life. Most of the time it is triggered by lifestyle factors that can be treated at home by the painkillers available over-the-counter or by altering the lifestyle and adapting a healthier living habit.

These lifestyle factors that contribute to headaches include:

  • Consumption of alcohol
  • Lack of sleep or changes in sleep pattern
  • Stress
  • Poor posture
  • Skipping meals
  • High intake of processed food

However, when headaches recur regularly, the majority are diagnosed as one of the primary headaches or chronic headaches, such as:

  • Migraine
  • Tension-type headache
  • Cluster headache

Although most headaches are centered in the orbital and the temple region, many may present in the lower half of the face, teeth, or jaws.

Secondary headaches can also occur as a symptom of a certain type of disease such as sinusitis, aneurysms, dehydration, dental-related conditions, ear infection or as severe as a brain tumor.



It is a common headache, affecting approximately 18% of woman and 8% of men. A first migraine headache a person suffers typically occurs in the teenage years. Before puberty, however, the ratio of occurrence of male and female is equal.

These headaches are unilateral 40% of times, resulting in “aura” several minutes to 1 hour before the onset. The aura is a neurological disturbance, frequently expressed as flashing or shimmering lights or a partial loss of vision.

People suffering from migraine headaches have nausea and photophobia (intolerance to light) during an attack in 80% of cases. A migraine typically lasts for 4-72 hours and the factors that trigger a migraine include:

  • Menstruation
  • Stress
  • Certain vasoactive food or drugs
  • Certain jaw related musculoskeletal disorder.


The majority of patients who report to the physician with a chief complaint of a headache are diagnosed with a tension-type headache. This is generally bilaterally affecting a higher percentage of women than men. The symptoms persist longer than 15 days per month to be diagnosed as a tension-type headache.


A cluster headache is a clearly unilateral head pain typically centered on the eye and the temple region. The pain is intense, frequently described as a stabbing sensation like as in ice pick was being driven into the eyes. It occurs in cyclic patterns or clusters, last 15 to 180 minutes, and may occur once or multiple times per day, commonly with precise regularity, that is, awakening the person at the same time night after night.

Alcohol ingestion and smoking tobacco are closely associated with cluster headaches. Hence, men are more likely to encounter cluster headaches than women.


This include:

  • Regular aerobic exercise
  • Psychological therapies
  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) as acute treatment.
  • Antiemetics as an acute treatment in case if the patient is experiencing nausea and vomiting.
  • Local anesthesia can also be used in localized areas of pain.

Moreover, for preventive treatment, one can be advised antiseizure medications, certain beta-blockers to control blood pressure or certain types of anti-depressants are also proven beneficial.

Skip to content