Headaches come in many varieties, and some are easily recognized. A migraine Classically causes a stabbing, intense pain that lasts for hours – sometimes even days – on one side of the head. A tension headache generally feels like a tight band squeezing around your noggin. And one Sinus headache manifests as pressure on one side of the face, behind the nose, or above an eye when you have a sinus infection.
Some headaches, however, are not as well known.
What is happening to me?
When less familiar headaches arise, the symptoms or patterns can be confusing, even frightening.
For example, a thunderclap headache (also called “the worst headache of your life”) causes sudden, severe, debilitating pain that can last for an hour or a week.
Here are five other unusual headaches.
- Orgasmic headaches. Some people experience sudden onset of severe head pain similar to thunderclap just before or around the time of sexual orgasm. While usually no underlying problem is found, this should prompt a call to your doctor to be sure.
- Ice pick headache. The vivid image of this headache identifies its main feature: sudden, short, severe pains to the head. Icy pickax headaches are so fleeting that they’re over long before any medicine can take effect. This type of headache usually affects people who already have migraines or cluster headache.
- New Persistent Daily Doctors call this headache “new” because it develops in a person who has never had a headache problem before. The onset is sudden enough that you often remember exactly when it started. It is “daily” and “persistent” because it persists indefinitely and can mimic a migraine or tension headache.
- Paroxysmal hemicrania. Like cluster headaches, paroxysmal hemicranias last for some time. But the periods are shorter (10 to 30 minutes) and more frequent (5 to 15 times a day). The condition is considered to be different from cluster headache because each type of headache responds differently to various medications.
- Weekend headaches. These are often caused by withdrawal from caffeine, which leads to dilation of blood vessels. This type of headache often begins 12 to 24 hours after your last sip of coffee and is likely to develop on weekends, when you delay your first cup of the day or skip coffee altogether. You can easily identify this type of headache by comparing your caffeine intake on the weekends with your intake for the week.
What to do for a headache
Take note of your symptoms when a headache occurs. If it’s sudden and intense, like a thunderclap headache, it could signal bleeding inside the head. Seek emergency medical attention.
If a headache is less severe, an over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or acetaminophen (Tylenol) may be sufficient to relieve your pain.
But if the headaches come back or you need to take pain relievers frequently, talk to your doctor. You may not know the particular pattern of pain, but your doctor probably will or may refer you to a headache specialist.
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