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Headache

German: Kopfschmerz

1 Definition

A headache is a painful sensation in the region of the head. It's based on the stimulation of pain-sensitive structures (calvaria, meninges, blood vessels in the brain, cranial nerves, spinal nerves). The brain tissue itself is not pain-sensitive.

2 Classification

Headache can generally be divided into:

  1. Primary headache: The pain is the primary condition, with a known cause.
  2. Secondary headache: Side effect of a different condition

The ICHD classification, published by the International Headache Society, provides a more detailed classification and distinguishes between 128 different kinds of headaches.

3 Etiology

Possible causes for secondary headache are:

4 Frequent types

4.1 Migraine

  • Very painful, often pulsating
  • Episodic
  • Occurs repetitively and one-sided
  • Duration: hours up to days
  • Accompanying symptoms (nausea, vomiting, light and noise sensitivity)
  • Possibly neurological fits

4.2 Tension headache

  • Mild or moderate intensity
  • The whole head, both sides
  • Constant pressure
  • Occasionally up to daily (30 minutes to 7 days)
  • Dull, pressing
  • Often other accompanying symptoms

4.3 Cluster headache

  • One-sided pain in the region of the eyes of temple
  • Possibly reddening of the eyes and the face
  • Increased lacrimation
  • Lasts for 15 to 180 minutes
  • Can occur for years

4.4 Headache caused by neck problems

  • Mild to strong level of pain
  • One-sided pain with one dominant side
  • No regular temporal pattern
  • Limited mobility in the cervical spine
  • Accompanying symptoms (nausea, dizziness, impaired vision)
  • Ventral translation of the head

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