These are different types of headaches and what they can mean

These are different types of headaches and what they can mean

No one wants to have a pounding head after a long day at work. But, as many people know, there is no one type of headache. Pain behind your eye, a feeling as if there is a tight band around your head, or sharp pains. This can be very annoying. What can different types of headaches mean?

We list it. Just remember that if you’re really concerned about whether you have headaches that last a long time or come back regularly, it’s best to see a doctor.

Common types of headaches

The guidelines of the Dutch Association of General Practitioners describe four types of headaches that occur (fairly) frequently. We’ll tell you something about these types and what you can do about them.

Tension headache

Do you feel severe pain on both sides of your head? Then you have a tension headache. People also sometimes describe the feeling as a tight band around the head or on either side of the head. In addition to this pinching sensation, the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and skull can be tender.

Tension headaches are often not so serious that you have to go to bed and do nothing. The cause is usually not serious, but may be due to stress, tension, and muscle tension in the neck. However, it is not known exactly where it comes from. This type of headache lasts from half an hour to a few days.

Here’s what you can do about it:

Cluster headache (pain behind your eye)

Many people will recognize this annoying pain behind the eye, which can be quite severe. This is a cluster headache because it is often in one specific location. So it’s a set of painful stimuli. The pain is often around the eye and is aching, sharp, or burning. Thuisarts He describes cluster headaches as “attacks” that occur over weeks to months.

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Interestingly, men (especially those between the ages of 20 and 40) suffer from cluster headaches more than women. But with cluster headaches, you don’t just feel pain behind your eye. These are other symptoms:

  • Excessive facial sweating
  • Your eye is red
  • Your eyelid is thick or droopy
  • You have a stuffy nose or runny nose
  • Feel anxious

In this type of headache, the pain is often so severe that you cannot continue with your daily activities. However, it is not entirely clear how they arise. For example, alcohol and a long plane ride can trigger a seizure. Avoid these things if you want to prevent this. There are medications to combat this, always discuss this option with your doctor.


You see spots or flashes of light, are sensitive to light, sound and smell and prefer to go to bed with the curtains closed and a wet cloth on your forehead. Although this doesn’t seem to make much difference. Is it recognizable? Then you are most likely affected by migraines. Many consider it one of the worst types of headaches, which also affects your daily activities. “Just” continuing to work is often no longer possible.

The pain is often on one side of the head and feels like a throbbing sensation. Your hands may also shake. The home doctor describes migraine as a “disease of the brain.” For example, before a migraine starts, you may already feel depressed or happy, be tired or have muscle aches and be sensitive to smells.

Migraines are caused by a brief disturbance in the brain. The cause is not completely known, but lack of sleep or food, alcohol, and abstinence from caffeine, especially red wine, can trigger a migraine attack. Migraines can also run in families. If you feel such an attack coming on, take a break and take a pain reliever.

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Headaches resulting from the use of medications

People who take certain medications sometimes experience headaches due to those medications. Even if it’s painkillers. These headaches often last throughout the day and get worse when you are active. You also need more and more painkillers to reduce the pain.

Then your body gets used to paracetamol or ibuprofen, for example, and if you don’t take it once, the pain returns. This is possible with paracetamol and ibuprofen if you take these medicines at least fifteen days a month.

Please note: This is not medical advice. Do you suffer from long-term or regular headaches? Then visit your doctor, for example, for personalized advice.

Red wine headache: Why does red wine go to your head so quickly?

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ThuisartsNHG guidelines


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