Headaches are divided into primary and secondary headaches. Migraines and tension headaches are primary headaches, the cause of which is actually unknown. Secondary headaches are those which can be attributed to a cause. For example, headaches after a concussion, during the flu or in the case of raised blood pressure.
Tension headaches and migraines are two of the most common types of headaches. A migraine has its own clinical picture within headaches. It is believed that around 15% of female adults and around 6% of male adults are affected by migraines. The precise cause of migraines is unknown. Observations points to certain triggers which may cause a migraine attack. They include hormonal fluctuations (menstrual cycle), lack of sleep, stress and particular foods or luxury foods such as chocolate, cheese or red wine.
A migraine is characterised by a paroxysmal headache that is usually one-sided. Typical symptoms include photophobia and sensitivity to noise, nausea and vomiting. In around 20% of cases, a migraine is accompanied by what is known as an aura. This involves neurological disorders such as vision problems, speech problems, loss of balance or sensitivity disorders. Headaches which are accompanied by such problems as well as chronic and recurrent headaches should always be checked by a doctor to determine the causes.
Various examinations are used to diagnose headaches. Migraines can usually be diagnosed on the basis of the characteristic symptoms. The general rule is to differentiate primary headaches from secondary headaches. If the headache is secondary in nature, an attempt will be made to find the reason for the headache.
The type of headache determines the treatment. Tension headaches can be treated with pain medication, relaxation exercises and massages. There are specific medications available for migraines (migraine medications). Rest and the removal of external triggers such as noise and light support the treatment in the case of a migraine attack.
If the headache is secondary in nature, the focus is on treating the cause of the headache.