Learn about the causes of Headaches & find a practitioner in Auckland, Hamilton, Bay of Plenty, Wellington, Christchurch, Dunedin to help you overcome Headaches within New Zealand.
Headaches are mild to severe pain in the head or back of the neck. Headaches are classed as primary or secondary. The most common types of primary headache are tension, migraine and cluster. Secondary headaches are caused by associated diseases that can be minor, serious or life-threatening. The majority of headaches do not indicate any serious underlying cause and are usually relieved by medication or lifestyle changes.
The actual causes of headaches are unclear and different types of
headache have many contributory factors that cause them. Tension
headaches can be triggered by stress or psychological problems such as depression and anxiety.
Poor posture and deteriorating eyesight cause the scalp and neck
muscles to tense leading to tension headaches. Food, strong odours,
bright sunlight and the menstrual cycle can all trigger a tension headache.
Cluster and migraine headaches are termed 'vascular headaches' meaning blood vessels dilate and swell in the tissue surrounding the head causing pain. Cluster headaches are believed to be caused by over activity in the part of the brain called the hypothalamus. This activity can be triggered by drinking alcohol or smelling solvents, petrol and perfumes. Extreme temperatures can also bring on cluster headaches. Migraine headaches are caused by the enlargement of the temporal artery and release of chemicals under the skin of the temple. The chemicals cause pain, inflammation and further enlargement of the temporal artery that magnifies the pain.
Diseases that cause secondary headaches include brain tumours, haematomas (bleeding from ruptured veins or arteries), bacterial meningitis, strokes, high blood pressure, sinus infections, carbon monoxide poisoning, glaucoma and hypothyroidism.
While all headaches have the symptom of pain around the head or neck,
certain types of headache cause pain in specific areas of the head and
also have accompanying symptoms. Tension headaches typically last two
to three hours and symptoms include a constant ache affecting the sides
of the head, tightening of the neck muscles and pressure behind the
eyes. Cluster headaches are short-lived, strike rapidly on one side of
the head and centre around one eye. Pain develops quickly and without
prior warning but rarely lasts beyond a couple of hours. The eye can
also become inflamed and watery accompanied by blocked sinuses on the
Migraine headaches are characterised by a throbbing pain on one side of the head. The pain can vary from dull to severe often starting first thing in the morning. Migraines can also cause symptoms of nausea, vomiting and dizziness. Symptoms can last a few hours or a couple of days in some cases.
In cases of occasional headaches there is usually no need to visit a
GP. However, a GP visit is necessary if the headaches are frequent or
severe. A GP should be consulted if there are accompanying symptoms of
nausea, vomiting, fever and stiff neck
muscles. If the headache is after an injury or accident or if it is
causing slurred speech, confusion or numbness then a GP should be
In some cases, it is a good idea to keep a diary and log when and where the headaches occur. This will help identify any triggers to the headache and enable the GP to make a better diagnosis.