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Definition of Headache

Headache: A pain in the head with the pain being above the eyes or the ears, behind the head (occipital), or in the back of the upper neck. Headache, like chest pain or back ache, has many causes.

All headaches are considered primary headaches or secondary headaches. Primary headaches are not associated with other diseases. Examples of primary headaches are migraine headaches, tension headaches, and cluster headaches. Secondary headaches are caused by other diseases. The associated disease may be minor or major.

Tension headaches are the most common type of primary headache. As many as 90% of adults have tension headaches. Tension headaches are more common among women than men.

Migraine headaches are the second most common type of primary headache. An estimated 28 million people in the US have migraine headaches. Migraine headaches affect children as well as adults. Before puberty, boys and girls are affected equally by migraine headaches, but after puberty more women than men have them. Migraine often goes undiagnosed or is misdiagnosed as tension or sinus headaches.

Cluster headaches are a rare but important type of primary headache, affecting mainly men. The average age of cluster headache sufferers is 28-30 years, although headaches may begin in childhood.

Secondary headaches may result from innumerable conditions, ranging from life threatening ones such as brain tumors, strokes, meningitis, and subarachnoid hemorrhages to less serious but common conditions such as withdrawal from caffeine and discontinuation of analgesics (pain killing medication). Many people suffer from "mixed" headache disorders in which tension headaches or secondary headaches may trigger migraine.

The treatment of the headache depends on the type and severity of the headache and on other factors such as the age of the patient.

Headache is also referred to as cephalgia.

Source: MedTerms™ Medical Dictionary
http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=11396
Last Editorial Review: 8/28/2013

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