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Is that a headache, or…something else? It can be a real irritant, or totally debilitating, severely impacting on daily activities, lifestyle, and mood. Headaches have been around for as long as we have, yet many of us don’t realize there are different types of headache, with various symptoms. The World Health Organization (WHO) says that most of us will experience a headache from time to time. However, when they happen more frequently, then this is the time to find out what’s causing them and why.

Tension headaches

The most common type of headache is the tension kind According to WHO, one-third of men and more than half of women living in the developed world experience them, with one in 20 adults having them almost or every day. Sufferers can experience a range of symptoms, including feeling pressure behind the eyes, sensitivity to light and sound and tenderness in the face, neck, shoulders, and head.

Stress, anxiety, and depression are common causes with other causes including dehydration, a cold, alcohol consumption, too much screen time, and a change in caffeine intake. Treating such headaches is relatively simple. If you don’t want to take ibuprofen or other painkillers, then more sleep and water usually do the job.


Affecting at least one in every seven adults in the world, migraines are up to three times more common in women than men, yet fewer sufferers in the Far East, according to the WHO. Sufferers are most commonly aged between 35 and 45, although migraines can be caused by hormonal fluctuations and can often start at puberty.

Those who’ve never experienced one may simply call it a “bad headache.” The American Migraine Foundation says that migraines affect an estimated 28 million women in the United States, with WHO ranking them in their top 10 of debilitating illnesses. Recovering from a migraine takes longer, and treatments vary. Pain is severe enough to miss out on work and social life, sensitivity to light and sound, with some people experiencing “auras” where they might see dots or zigzags or feel tingling in their body.

Treatment varies according to frequency and severity, and typically deal with the symptoms when they arrive and with the migraine’s root cause. In the majority of cases, migraines have a genetic link, with up to 70% of sufferers having a close relative who also has them.

Sinus headache

These are caused by sinusitis when your sinuses swell because of an infection. They’re quite rare with symptoms including a throbbing, dull ache around the forehead, cheeks, and eyes, that worsens throughout the day. There may also be redness, green mucus, and a fever, according to the National Headache Foundation.

But when is a sinus headache really a sinus headache? They are quite rare and often are in fact migraines in disguise. In a piece for Harvard Medical Publishing, Dr. Paul Mathew writes than “86% or more of patients who suspect that they have sinus headaches, in fact, have migraines.”

For an actual sinus infection, getting rid of the bacteria causing the infection is the way forward. Treatment with antibiotics, OTC painkillers and decongestants usually addresses the problem, although a doctor may refer their patient to an ear, nose and throat specialist to root out the cause of the issue if a person suffers from recurrent sinusitis.

Getting treatment

According to the National Headache Foundation, “some individuals are reluctant to call their doctors or go to an Emergency Department because they don’t want to arrive only to learn that nothing out of the ordinary is wrong.” However, if a person’s symptoms increase, are severe and present alongside other symptoms, including confusion, dizziness, and shortness of breath, then don’t be shy about seeking help.  Luckily, for most of us, treating a headache is an inexpensive and straightforward affair, and can include making some small lifestyle changes, including dietary changes, more sleep and exercising more.