Even though headaches and migraines are two of the most prevalent neurological diseases in the world, dealing with them is still difficult. Chronic migraine sufferers may have headaches and other symptoms in reaction to particular environmental triggers, such as bright lights.
However, even those without migraine or any recognized headache illness may have headache triggers.
A headache may sometimes be a sign of another medical issue. According to the Mayo Clinic, several ailments, such as dehydration, ear infections, dental issues, concussions, and hangovers, may result in headaches. Additionally, several drugs, dietary components, and stimuli like a tight helmet or pair of goggles might produce headaches.
Even if you don’t have a headache issue, it’s still a good idea to be aware of these 11 typical headache causes. To acquire a headache, a person may need to experience one or more triggers of varying intensity.
1. Some people may have headaches from allergies
In addition to the typical runny nose, sneezing, and itchy or watery eyes associated with seasonal and other airborne allergens, headaches may also be brought on by these conditions. According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, one way this often occurs is that allergens induce swelling in your sinus cavities, which results in what is known as a sinus headache. This occurs as a result of pressure buildup at the sinus cavity apertures.
Allergies may also be a migraine cause for certain individuals. If you suffer from migraines, a doctor who specializes in allergies may be able to help you determine if food or environmental allergies may be contributing to your symptoms.
The following are typical allergens that might cause headaches:
Other outdoor allergies and pollen
Foods Mold Pet hair or dander
According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, sinus headaches may develop as an allergy symptom even if you have no other symptoms.
2. Dehydration Can Make Your Brain Smaller and Hurt
According to the Cleveland Clinic, dehydration that results from being in hot, dry, or chilly environments may cause headaches. That’s because dehydration causes your brain to shrink and pull away from your skull, placing pressure on pain-causing nerves.
Lightheadedness, increased thirst, and a dry mouth are some of the additional dehydration symptoms that often accompany a headache. There may be one area of your head that hurts or it may hurt all over. The pain is often mild but may sometimes be intense.
In most cases, headaches brought on by dehydration disappear when a person drinks enough water, gets adequate rest, and takes painkillers. However, if you exhibit symptoms of severe dehydration, such as disorientation or lightheadedness, you should seek immediate medical assistance.
3. Headaches May Be Caused by Nicotine in Cigarettes
According to a research of Spanish medical students published in The Journal of Headache and Pain, smoking cigarettes, or even simply the scent of smoke, may cause migraine sufferers to experience symptoms. But the addictive component of tobacco products, nicotine, may also give individuals who don’t have migraines headaches.
The nicotine in cigarettes narrows the blood arteries in your head, which reduces blood flow to the brain and its surrounding tissues, according to the National Headache Institute. Nicotine also activates the neurons that carry pain signals. Even worse, nicotine may prevent the typical headache treatments from working as intended by interfering with their ability to reduce pain.
However, if you smoke often, stopping smoking may not help you avoid headaches straight immediately. This is due to the fact that consuming less nicotine than you are used to might result in headaches from nicotine withdrawal, in addition to other symptoms including sleeplessness and cigarette cravings. According to the Cleveland Clinic, physical withdrawal symptoms from nicotine might last for three to four weeks after you quit smoking cigarettes.
Nicotine is also included in e-cigarettes used for vaping, and these may also lead to headaches. Additionally, withdrawal symptoms from nicotine might result after stopping vaping.
4. Medication-Overuse Headaches May Be Caused by Headache Treatments
Rebound headaches, also known as medication-overuse headaches, may occur in people who have recurrent headaches and use painkillers to treat them.
According to Roderick Spears, MD, a neurologist and associate professor of migraine research and clinical sciences at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, “using [migraine] rescue medication] too frequently can lead to rebound.”
According to the American Migraine Foundation, this form of headache has been linked to medications including nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) (including aspirin, ibuprofen, and others), acetaminophen (Tylenol), triptans, ergots, and opioids.
If you use most standalone painkillers for more than 15 days in a month, drug overuse headaches may develop. However, if you use triptans, ergots, opioids, and combination pain medicines (including those with caffeine) for more than 10 days in a row, you may start to have headaches from pharmaceutical overuse.
The frequent use of CGRP receptor antagonists, sometimes known as “gepants,” a more recent family of medications for the acute treatment of migraine, has not been demonstrated to cause headaches from pharmaceutical misuse.
5. Headaches Are Associated With Both Too Much and Too Little Sleep
According to the American Migraine Foundation, both little sleep and excessive sleep may cause headaches. According to Katherine Hamilton, MD, a neurologist and headache expert at MedStar Health in Washington, DC, irregular sleep and waking hours might also raise your chances of experiencing a migraine episode.
Any change from your usual routine, particularly for migraine sufferers, might give you a headache because, according to Dr. Hamilton, the “migraine brain” like to stay as steady and stable as possible.
A common sleep disease called sleep apnea reduces the amount of oxygen getting to the brain while you sleep and makes it harder to breathe. People with sleep apnea often get headaches when they awaken. Other signs of sleep apnea may include snoring, frequent awakenings, or abnormally dry mouth upon awakening.
It’s crucial to see your doctor if you have any sleep apnea symptoms in order to determine if you need treatment. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, sleep apnea raises the risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease.
6. Headaches May Result From Teeth Grinding
Your headache may be brought on by grinding your teeth while you sleep if you awaken with a dull, prolonged headache, particularly if you also have a painful jaw. It’s natural to sometimes clench or even grind your teeth, but if you do it regularly whether awake or sleeping, a condition known as bruxism, you run the danger of causing harm to your teeth as well as other symptoms like headaches.
Teeth grinding may be brought on by insufficient sleep and stress, so making behavioral adjustments and using stress management approaches may help you stop doing it while you’re asleep. A mouthguard may be useful for you since it may shield your teeth and even stop headaches.
7. COVID-19, colds, and the flu Often Cause Headaches
A typical symptom of COVID-19, colds, and the flu is headache, which is brought on by your body’s inflammatory reaction to the virus that is infecting you.
According to Dr. Spears, a COVID-19 headache is often characterized as a severe pressure in the head that becomes considerably worse when one coughs or sneezes.
You are more likely to have migraine-like headaches if you have migraines and acquire a sinus infection as a result of an upper respiratory illness, Spears continues.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) state that vaccinations significantly lower your risk of contracting COVID-19 or the flu. Despite the fact that there are no vaccinations available for the more than 200 cold viruses, you may reduce your risk of contracting one by often washing your hands and avoiding persons who are contagious.
8. Caffeine: Is It a Headache Cure or Headache Poison?
Some headache treatments include caffeine because it may help with headache discomfort when used in moderation. However, StatPearls notes that if you get used to consuming large amounts of caffeine via coffee, tea, or soft drinks, you may have a caffeine withdrawal headache if you don’t obtain your regular dosage. If you’re attempting to cut down on or stop coffee, you may prevent this headache cause by gradually lowering your caffeine consumption.
9. A Drinking Night Can Lead to Headaches
Although the sort of alcoholic beverage that causes a migraine episode in one person may not incite one in another, alcohol may be a trigger for certain migraine sufferers. Beer and red wine seem to be frequent triggers for a lot of folks. You will need to depend on your own personal experience to decide what, if anything, is safe for you to drink since there are no hard and fast laws on which sorts of alcohol to avoid.
If ingested during a cluster phase, drinking alcohol might potentially cause a cluster headache.
Of course, consuming too much alcohol of any kind may cause a headache as one of the symptoms that make up a hangover. Since alcohol serves as a diuretic and causes you to lose fluids via urine, this sort of headache is brought on by dehydration. Along with keeping you hydrated while you drink, drinking enough of water or other nonalcoholic drinks might also potentially assist you limit your alcohol consumption.
10. Stress may result in tension headaches
Because many individuals tend to tighten up their neck muscles when stressed, stress may promote the release of brain chemicals that can alter blood vessels within your head and create a tension-type headache, also known as a muscular contraction headache.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, up to 3 out of 4 persons get tension headaches, which may last anywhere from 30 minutes to a week. By recognizing frequent causes of stress and trying your best to avoid them, you may help prevent these headaches. Techniques for reducing stress like deep breathing exercises or meditation may also be helpful.
11. Could a sweet tooth be a headache trigger?
The long-held belief that chocolate causes migraine headaches is unfounded, according to the majority of specialists. Instead, a migraine attack in its early stages may be indicated by a chocolate desire.
Artificial sweeteners have reportedly caused headaches in a few persons, but there is little scientific proof of their frequency or probable causes. According to Migraine Again, because triggers differ from person to person, you can try eliminating artificial sweeteners from your diet to see what happens if you think you could be sensitive to them.
Consuming sugar or any other refined carbohydrate may also result in reactive hypoglycemia, a condition that can result in headaches. According to the Cleveland Clinic, this occurs when your body overproduces the hormone insulin in reaction to the consumption of sugar or carbohydrates, resulting in a dip in blood sugar that may take place up to four hours after eating. Typical symptoms include feeling a little shaky, sweating, or queasy in addition to a probable headache.
Reactive hypoglycemia may be avoided by consuming less foods high in sugar and other refined carbs and more meals high in slowly absorbed carbohydrates.
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