Do You Have A Unilateral Headache?
Feeling a constant throbbing sensation on one side of your head?
It is, typically, a throbbing pain on one side, wherein the person may also experience symptoms like vomiting, nausea, fatigue and visual sensitivity to light. This type of pain is very common in migraines and cluster headaches, both of which are fairly intense and long-lasting.
Cluster headache is a condition where the patient experiences recurrent and severe unilateral headaches. It is a fairly common form of chronic, repeated pain, and men tend to suffer from it more often than women. A bout of regular attacks – or clusters – can last from a few days, to weeks, to even a month. This is followed by a remission period during which no headache occurs.
Migraines Can Also be Unilateral
Even though migraines cause pain all over the head, the pain often starts or is concentrated on one side of the head. According to statistics, more than half of migraine sufferers complain that their attacks cause pain on one side of the head. The term migraine itself is derived from the Latin word hemicrania which means pain on one side of the head.
Unilateral headaches are seen more in the case of migraines because they are much more common than cluster headaches (affects only 1 in 1000 people). Besides throbbing pain on one side, the person may experience other symptoms like vomiting, nausea and visual sensitivity to light. Some sufferers tend to feel weak and may have difficulty walking.
What Type of Unilateral Headache Do You Suffer From?
Unilateral headaches are most commonly identified with migraines. Even though migraines can impact the whole head, at least one in five people suffering from migraines feel the pain on one side only. Unilateral headaches are mostly associated with one kind of headache or the other, but in some cases, one-sided pain that never moves, may suggest a deeper problem. If the condition is serious, it could need prompt medical attention.
In general, however, unilateral headaches are connected with four kinds of headaches.
- Cervicogenic Headache: Cervicogenic simply refers to the cervical area, which is the part of the spine located right near the base of the skull. The pain is usually unilateral. It originates in the neck and then spreads to the head. The headache is felt intermittently but then progresses into a continuous pain. The cause of the headache is an excessive amount of stress to the neck and spine area.
- Cluster Headaches: These headaches are severe, unilateral and typically felt around the eye. They are sometimes also referred to as alarm-Clock headaches because of the regularity of their timing, and they may awaken individuals from their sleep. the pain keeps returning once or several times a day and can last for months.
- Paroxysmal Hemicrania: This is a rare kind of headache that usually begins in adulthood. Persons suffering from it experience a claw-like, throbbing or deep boring pain on one side of the face, behind the eye and occasionally reaching the back of the neck.
- Hemicrania Continua: This is a primary chronic daily headache disorder. It is characterized by a continuous, fluctuating, unilateral pain without shifting sides of the head.
What Triggers Unilateral Headaches?
Emotional stress can be one reason for a migraine to trigger. But a number of food and lifestyle choices can also affect the condition. Foods like chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, nuts, tyramine (a natural chemical found in foods such as yogurt, sour cream and aged cheese) can trigger a headache. Similarly, not eating on time or not getting enough sleep can also lead to a migraine attack.
Unlike cluster headaches, women suffer from migraines more than men. For some women, menstrual hormones cause monthly migraine episodes.
Cluster headaches are a little more complicated than migraines. Research suggests that a part of the brain called the hypothalamus becomes overactive during each attack. However, the reason for this over-activity is not known. During the attack, the hypothalamus is thought to release chemicals which may stimulate nerve cells in the brain to cause the pain and other symptoms.
Both kinds of unilateral headaches need to be treated so as to provide relief to the person. A thorough diagnosis and counseling can go a long way in finding a permanent solution.
The National Headache Institute treats all kinds of headaches. We are equipped with excellent diagnostic and treatment techniques to effectively deal with unilateral headaches. Our expert team of doctors offer personalized counseling, excellent guidance and perfect treatment plans. Get rid of your unilateral headache for good.