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26 Different Types of Headache and Migraine Disorders You Should Know About

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People often assume all headaches are the same. However, people who live with headache or migraine disorders know all too well that this isn’t the case. In fact, there are actually over 20 types of headaches and migraines, and knowing which type you have can help you and your doctor determine what type(s) of treatment will be most effective.

Some headache and migraine disorders are stand-alone conditions, whereas others are secondary symptoms to another health condition. Also, some are fairly common, whereas others are so rare you may have never heard of them. So, let’s take a look at 26 different types of headaches and migraines, sorted by type.

Primary Headache Disorders

1. Tension Headache

Tension-type headaches (TTH) are the most commonly occurring type of headache disorder worldwide. These headaches cause feelings of pressure or tightness in a band-type shape around the head, and can also spread into the neck.

2. Cluster Headache

Cluster headache (CH) is a headache disorder in which people experience severe headaches around one eye or on one side of the head. In addition to the extreme pain they cause, these headaches can also come alongside symptoms like red or teary eyes, sweating around the face, runny or stuffy nose, and restlessness or agitation. Approximately 1 in 1,000 adults live with cluster headaches.

Secondary Headaches

3. Caffeine Headache

Caffeine headaches are a type of secondary headache caused by either a caffeine withdrawal or overuse of caffeine. Although these headaches are not typically life-threatening, they can be frustrating and painful for people who experience them.

4. Hormone Headache (Menstrual Migraine)

Hormone headaches, or menstrual migraines, are headaches that occur either right before or during a person’s period. The headache can last anywhere from a few hours to a few days and can get worse with certain lights, sounds, smells, or movements (much like a migraine). Because these headaches are typically caused by changes in estrogen levels, sometimes doctors will prescribe certain types of birth control to help people manage severe forms of hormone headaches.

5. Sinus Headache

Many people experience sinus headaches when their sinus passages become congested or inflamed. This often causes intense pressure or pain behind and around one’s cheeks, nose, eyes, and forehead. These headaches are often treated with over-the-counter medications, but sometimes are the result of a sinus infection, which requires antibiotics to cure.

6. Hypertension Headache

Elevated blood pressure can cause what’s called a hypertension headache. It typically feels like a pulsating type of pain on both sides of the head and can be a warning sign of a more serious medical condition.

7. Exertion Headache

An exertion headache, or exercise headache, usually occurs as a result of intense physical activity. These headaches can last a few hours or a few days. They usually have no underlying cause.

8. Rebound Headache

Rebound headaches, or medication overuse headaches, frequently occur in people who live with another type of headache disorder. They are usually caused by the overuse of NSAIDs or other types of pain relievers. Common treatment includes temporarily discontinuing certain medications.

Migraine Types

9. Migraine With Aura

Migraine with aura is a type of migraine disorder in which people experience aura, visual and sensory changes that occur shortly before the migraine headache, or attack, begins. About 25 percent of people who live with migraine experience migraine with aura.

10. Migraine Without Aura

Migraine without aura is a migraine disorder in which the two warning phases (prodrome and aura) do not occur. Besides that, migraine without aura includes most of the hallmark symptoms of other types of migraine.

11. Migraine With Brainstem Aura

Migraine with brainstem aura is a migraine disorder where the aura symptoms originate from the brainstem. This can cause symptoms like slurred speech, vertigo, tinnitus, and impaired hearing in addition to typical migraine symptoms.

12. Episodic Migraine

Most people who experience migraine live with what is called episodic migraine. This simply means they have migraine attacks up to seven times per month on average. People can experience episodic migraine with any of the types of migraine disorders on this list.

13. Chronic Migraine

People who experience migraine attacks at least 15 days per month have what is called chronic migraine. The intensity of the attacks can vary, and people with chronic migraine are susceptible to rebound headaches because they often need to take medications more frequently than most other people.

14. Hemiplegic Migraine

Hemiplegic migraine is a migraine disorder that causes weakness and tingling or loss of sensation on one side of the body. People who deal with hemiplegic migraine may confuse their symptoms for signs of a stroke, especially when the symptoms occur without the presence of head pain.

15. Acephalgic Migraine

Acephalgic, or silent migraine, is a migraine disorder in which people experience all of the common migraine symptoms without head pain. People who live with silent migraine deal with visual disturbances, nausea, fatigue, and more.

16. Ocular (or Retinal) Migraine

Retinal migraine is a migraine disorder in which the aura phase causes a temporary loss of vision in one eye. It is most common in women, and can be a sign of other underlying health conditions. In most cases, though, the vision loss reverses itself.

17. Vestibular Migraine

Vestibular migraine is a migraine disorder that causes vertigo, or repeated dizziness, in people who experience migraine symptoms. People with this type of migraine may also deal with other common migraine symptoms, such as sensitivity to light, sound, and smell, nausea, and more. People who deal with vestibular migraine may or may not experience headache pain.

18. Status migrainosus

Status migrainosus is a term used to explain migraine attacks that may not respond to any traditional treatment and last more than 72 hours. Unfortunately, this condition often lands people in the hospital, and it can be hard to diagnose.

19. Ophthalmoplegic Migraine

Ophthalmoplegic migraine is a type of migraine that impacts the eyes. People with this rare type of migraine experience headache pain around their eyeballs. They may also experience eye weakness, double vision, and an inability to move eye muscles during an attack.

20. Abdominal Migraine

People who live with abdominal migraine experience extreme pain like any other migraineur. However, the pain is concentrated in the abdomen instead of the head. It’s far more common in children than adults.

Rare Types of Headache and Migraine

21. Ice Pick Headaches

As the name implies, ice pick headaches are short-lasting, intense headaches that create sharp pain that feels like you are being stabbed with an ice pick. They usually occur in the orbit, temple, and parietal area of your head.

22. Cervicogenic Headache

Cervicogenic headaches are ones caused by pain in your neck that feels like it is in the back of your head. These headaches can come as the result of a neck injury or from a lesion on the spine.

23. SUNCT Headache

Short-Lasting Unilateral Neuralgiform Headache with Conjunctival Injection and Tearing (SUNCT) is a rare headache disorder that only occurs in approximately 6 out of every 100,000 individuals. SUNCT headaches typically occur as bursts of piercing, throbbing, or burning pain and typically happen around the eye or temple on one side of the person’s head. Each episode can last for up to four minutes, and people usually experience multiple attacks per hour.

24. Hemicrania Continua

Hemicrania continua is a rare type of primary headache that often occurs as continuous daily pain. Although it can fluctuate in severity, it usually occurs on one side of the head or face, and causes additional symptoms like red, watery eyes, blocked nasal passages, and/or a runny nose.

25. Paroxysmal Hemicrania

Paroxysmal hemicrania is a rare form of headache that typically occurs in adults. People who live with paroxysmal hemicrania report severe claw-like, throbbing pain that lasts for up to 30 minutes at a time and can occur as often as 40 times per day.

26. Thunderclap Headache

Thunderclap headaches are severe, short-lasting headaches that feel like a clap of thunder striking one’s head. These headaches are rare, and often a sign of bleeding in and around the brain or other potentially life-threatening issues.

As this list demonstrates, there are many different types of headaches and migraines, and they are anything but all the same. No matter what type of headache or migraine disorder you live with though, know that your symptoms and your pain are real, but they don’t make you any less worthy as a person.

Getty image by Lafior.

Originally published: June 20, 2022
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