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Headaches and Migraines

Headaches result from signals interacting among the brain, blood vessels and surrounding nerves. During a headache, specific nerves of the blood vessels are activated and send pain signals to the brain. A migraine begins when overactive nerve cells send out impulses to the blood vessels. This causes the release of substances that cause swelling of the blood vessels in the vicinity of the nerve endings, resulting in pain.

Headaches are classified as either a primary or secondary headaches. Primary headaches are those that are not the result of a medical condition. These include tension, migraine and cluster headaches. Secondary headaches result from another medical or neurological condition, such as sinus, medication overuse or headaches that occur because of a head injury or trauma.

Tension-type headaches are the most common type of headache. These headaches tend to be mild, non-throbbing and on both sides of the head.

Migraines are caused by changes in the nerves and blood vessels. They are also related to changes in the brain and inherited abnormalities in certain areas of the brain. Migraine pain can vary from moderate to severe, with pounding or throbbing.

Cluster headaches are the most severe type of primary headache. The pain is intense and has a burning or piercing quality that is throbbing or constant. The pain is often located behind one eye or in the eye region, without changing sides.

Sinus headaches are associated with a deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead or bridge of the nose. The pain usually gets worse with sudden head movement or straining and occurs with other acute sinus symptoms.

Medication overuse headaches occur as a result of the overuse of either readily available over-the-counter or prescribed pain medications.

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