Headache Classification

Headache Classification

The International Headache Society developed a system for classifying headache and facial pain. A headache may satisfy conditions for more than one headache diagnosis; the symptoms may change over time; or the headache may switch from one type to another during a single episode.  Although 150 different diagnostic categories exist, the most common headache syndromes are migraine, tensiontype, cluster, sinus, hormone, and rebound.

Migraine headaches: Often fatigue, depression, and visual disturbance (light flash, loss of peripheral vision) signal migraine headaches.  Characteristics of a migraine include: ·

  • Pain that is usually on one side at a time, but may involve the entire head ·
  • Pain that is throbbing and usually develops in the morning and gradually becomes worse after an hour or so ·
  • Attacks that may occur every few days or weeks, or not for months Migraines often continue for hours, but rarely last longer than one or two days ·
  • Pain that may be aggravated by stress, alcohol, or certain foods such as chocolate and frequently accompanied by nausea and vomiting and relieved by sleep ·
  • A family history of migraine headaches

Tension-type headaches: A tension headache is a common headache pattern that may or may not be associated with stress. Tension headaches are characterized by: ·

  • Pain usually felt in the back of the head and neck, usually on both sides ·
  • Pain that lasts for weeks or months with only brief periods of relief, although it may fluctuate in severity ·
  • Attacks that begin at any time of the day ·
  • Pain that is often described as a tight band, pressing, but rarely throbbing, and never accompanied by fever

Cluster headaches: Cluster headaches are a variation of migraines. They occur mostly in men, while migraines occur mostly in women. Cluster headaches are characterized by: ·

  • Pain that is often situated behind an eye and usually behind the same eye each time ·
  • Pain that comes on suddenly and without warning ·
  • Pain that peaks within five to ten minutes and disappears in less than an hour ·
  • Pain that is often triggered by alcohol ·
  • Pain that awakens a person and occurs several times a day for weeks and then stops

Sinus headaches: Inflamed sinuses are characterized by: ·

  • Pain that usually begins during or after a bad cold, particularly if there is postnasal drip ·
  • Pain that is localized to one specific area of the face or head ·
  • Pain that is worse in the morning before the mucus has had a chance to drain ·
  • Pain that is made worse by coughing, sneezing, or sudden movements of the head ·
  • Pain that is aggravated by alcohol, sudden temperature changes ·
  • Pain that is aggravated during cold seasons by going from warm room out into the cold ·
  • A history of hay fever and allergies

Rebound headaches: Rebound headaches most often develop in migraine patients. They are characterized by: ·

  • Pain that occurs daily or nearly daily ·
  • Pain on both sides of the head ·
  • Pain that has a pressing/tightening quality ·
  • A mild sensitivity to light or sound