There are many different types of headaches. Although not all headaches are the same, they all share at least one thing in common -- they cause pain. But many headaches also cause other unwanted symptoms, including nausea and vomiting.
If you feel throbbing that begins on one side and causes nausea or sound/light sensitivity, you may have a migraine. Visual disturbances, such as flickering points of light, may precede this type of headache. You may also notice:
- Moderate to severe pain (often described as pounding, throbbing pain) that can affect the whole head, or can shift from one side of the head to the other
- Sensitivity to light, noise or odors
- Blurred vision
- Nausea or vomiting, stomach upset, abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Sensations of being very warm or cold
- Fever (rare)
- Bright flashing dots or lights, blind spots, wavy or jagged lines (aura)
If you feel a steady pain in the area behind your face that gets worse if you bend forward -- and if you also have nasal congestion -- you may have a sinus headache. This type can lead to:
- Deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead or bridge of the nose
- Pain that gets worse with sudden head movement or straining
- Pain along with other sinus symptoms, like nasal discharge, a feeling of fullness in the ears, fever, and facial swelling.
If you feel a dull, steady pain that feels like a band tightening around your head, you may have a tension headache. There are different types:
Episodic Tension Headaches (occur less than 15 days per month)
- Pain is mild to moderate, constant band-like pain or pressure
- Pain affects the front, top or sides of the head.
- Pain usually begins gradually, and often occurs in the middle of the day
- Pain may last from 30 minutes to several days
Chronic Tension Headaches (occur more than 15 days per month)
- Pain may vary in intensity throughout the day, but the pain is almost always present
- Pain comes and goes over a prolonged period of time
Associated Symptoms of Tension Headaches include:
Headache upon awakening
- Difficulty falling asleep and staying asleep
- Chronic fatigue
- Disturbed concentration
- Mild sensitivity to light or noise
- General muscle aching
With this type of headache, you’ll probably notice:
- Intense pain on one side of your head. People often describe it asburning, piercing, throbbing, or constant
- Pain behind or around one eye that doesn’t change sides.
- Pain lasts a short time, generally 30 to 90 minutes (but can last for three hours); the headache will disappear, only to recur later that day (most sufferers get one to three headaches and some up to eight per day during a cluster period).
- Headaches occur very regularly, generally at the same time each day, and they often awaken the person at the same time during the night.
Call 911 Now If:
- You have a sudden, severe headache. It is the “worst headache of your life.” Or you have had a seizure, are confused, have passed out, or have a change in behavior. These may be signs of a stroke. Call 911.
- You have a severe headache with vomiting, limb weakness, double vision, slurred speech, or difficulty swallowing. This may signal a stroke, cerebral hemorrhage, or an aneurysm. Call 911. Get medical help now.
Call Your Doctor About a Headache If:
- You have a new kind of headache that you've never felt before. Does it happen the first thing in the morning, bring on vomiting, and then go away during the day? See your doctor without delay.
- You have a high fever and severe pain with nausea and a stiff neck. You may have meningitis. Get medical help now.
- You are drowsy with dizziness, vertigo, nausea, or vomiting after a head injury. You may have a concussion. See your doctor right away.
- You have recurring or very painful headaches.