Types of headaches

Everyone has had a headache at some point. Headaches come in different forms with different complaints. Occasionally the headache has a serious cause, but often it is a harmless but annoying condition.

Less severe forms of headaches

Tension headache

You will feel a dull, pressing pain in the skin of your skull, temples and neck. The pain is usually on both sides of the head and feels like a tight band around your head. Unlike migraines, this headache does not get worse when you exercise. Often there are no other complaints such as nausea or vomiting. However, this headache can last for hours to several days. Usually the cause of the headache is tension in the muscles. It is best to take it easy and avoid stressful moments. You can try to relax your muscles by taking a warm bath or shower and using paracetamol.


With this headache you often have very severe pain on one side of the head. If you exert yourself, this pain becomes much worse. People with migraines usually know when an attack is coming. They see stars or flashes before their eyes. People with migraine often also feel very ill, feel nauseous, vomit and cannot tolerate light in their eyes.
Here too, stress and fatigue can be a cause of a migraine attack.

Cluster headache

This headache is a bit like a migraine attack, but cluster headaches are not very common. Here too, the headache is on one side of the head and is very severe. The attacks can last from half an hour to a few hours, so they last a little less long than a migraine attack. You may even have an attack a few times a day and this can continue for months. Complaints that arise are often a watery eye and a blocked nostril.

Drug-related headache

Daily use of painkillers (often the painkillers can also be used for other complaints) can actually cause a headache. The headache then becomes chronic. The painkillers are often also medications used for headaches. But excessive use of the drugs can cause the blood level to become too low, which in turn causes headaches. It is therefore necessary to try to reduce the medication.

Severe forms of headache

Meningitis (meningitis)

There are two types of meningitis, a viral infection and a bacterial one. The viral infection is actually one of the less serious forms of headaches, because they are usually benign. But the bacterial form is a lot more serious. Complaints that someone may experience are:

  • high fever
  • vomit
  • drowsiness
  • neck stiffness, it is very painful or impossible to bring the chin to the chest, but turning the head is possible
  • pinpoint hemorrhages (small red dots on the skin that cannot be pushed away)

If you suspect these complaints, you should urgently consult a doctor.

Subarachnoid hemorrhage (cerebral hemorrhage, CVA)

Usually this headache comes on like a bolt from the blue. From one moment to the next you have a pounding headache and you feel very bad. Usually a small snap is felt in the head beforehand, a vein has burst. This can also occur in younger people. Physical exertion often occurs, such as straining on the toilet.
Here too, it is necessary that a doctor be notified as soon as possible.

Subdural hematoma

This can occur if someone has had a hard blow with/on/ against the head. There is then a small tear in a vein in your head that leaks a small amount of blood. As more blood is released, you will get more headaches. It can sometimes take weeks before you develop symptoms. The complaints are mainly symptoms of paralysis, behavioral changes or disturbances of consciousness. The risk of this is greater if someone is taking blood thinners. So if you suddenly get a severe headache and have hit your head hard a few days or weeks before, report this to a doctor.

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