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Name That Pain: Different Headaches And What They Mean

Headaches are one of the most common afflictions for adults across the world. From cluster headaches, to migraines, to persistent headaches, it helps to learn about which type is which to determine the best treatment.

Visual And Non-Visual Migraines

You’re minding your own business at the end of your work day, when you suddenly notice a dull throb in your temples. Or maybe, you’re driving down the road and you notice a strange visual “aura” emerge in your eyesight. Perhaps you wake up in the middle of the night, suddenly seized by excruciating head pain and nausea. In each of these cases, it’s your unlucky day: a migraine is beginning to set in.


Migraines are among the most common afflictions faced by humans on this planet, and when it comes to headaches in particular, migraines are also the most common variety. Migraines come in one of two equally unpleasant varieties: about 10-30% of migraine sufferers get the “visual” kind, while 70-90% experience the non-visual form. Those who suffer from visual migraines get a spooky warning of the impending pain and unpleasantness about to be inflicted upon them, as a bright light, wavy lines, or other visual disturbances impose themselves upon their field of vision. This is soon followed by excruciating head pain, and frequently, extreme nausea and sensitivity to light and stimulus.


On the other hand, the more common migraine doesn’t come along with any visual symptoms — you might experience it as simply your average everyday headache, although in extreme cases it can be as excruciating (and nausea-inducing) as its visual counterpart. We’re still not sure about all the science behind migraines, but scientists are fairly sure that there’s a genetic component. Good luck figuring out which gene it belongs to, though; we still don’t know. Treatments vary for migraines, and there doesn’t seem to be a one-size-fits-all solution to migraine relief. If you suffer from chronic migraines, your best bet is to come up with an individualized treatment plan with your doctor.


The Worst Headache Of All: The Cluster Headache

Believe it or not, there’s something even more insidious than a migraine: the dreaded cluster headache. Cluster headaches afflict about 1 in every 1,000 people, and they result in absolutely unimaginable pain. Sufferers usually get a cluster headache about 3 – 11 times per year on average, and they describe the sensation as a “dull knife” digging into their head or the back of their eye.


Because of the extreme pain associated with cluster headaches, the ways to treat it are much more innovative and unusual than simply popping some naproxen. Researchers have tried everything, including trying to stimulate the vagus nerve in the sufferer’s neck to try and divert the stimulus being transmitted by the nervous system.


If you suffer from headaches chronically, you don’t have to suffer alone. Consider making an appointment with a doctor to determine the exact type of headaches you tend to get, and together you can come up with an action plan to hopefully spend fewer days rubbing your temples, and more days feeling like yourself.

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