How common are headaches in adults?
According to the National Headache Foundation, more than 45 million Americans suffer from chronic, recurring headaches and of these, 28 million suffer from migraines. About 20 percent of children and adolescents also have significant headaches. About 70% of headache sufferers are women.
Headaches are the most common cause of absenteeism from work and school. Migraine sufferers lose more than 157 million work and school days annually because of headache pain.
What are the types of headaches?
A comprehensive headache classification guide was established by the International Headache Society and includes more than 150 diagnostic headache categories.
Based on research, a practical headache classification includes primary and secondary headaches.
Primary headaches are those that are not the result of another medical condition. The category includes tension, migraine, mixed headache syndrome and cluster headaches.
- Tension headaches: the most common type of primary headaches, accounting for about 90% of all headaches diagnosed. Tension headaches are also called chronic daily headaches or chronic non-progressive headaches. These muscle contraction headaches cause mild to moderate pain and come and go over a prolonged period of time. Tension headaches are not usually associated with sensitivity to light or noise. Tension headaches can be classified as chronic, occurring more than 15 days per month, or episodic, occurring less than 15 days per month.
- Migraines: the second most common type of primary headaches. The exact cause of migraines is unknown, although they are neurovascular in nature and are related to changes in the brain as well as inherited abnormalities in certain areas of the brain. Migraine pain is moderate to severe, often described as pounding, throbbing pain. Migraines can last from 4 hours to 3 days and usually occur 1 to 4 times per month. Migraines are associated with symptoms such as sensitivity to light, noise or odors; nausea or vomiting; loss of appetite; and stomach upset or abdominal pain.
- Mixed headache syndrome: the combination of migraine and tension headaches.
- Cluster headaches: the least common, but most severe, type of primary headache. The pain of a cluster headache is intense and may be described as having a burning or piercing quality that is throbbing or constant. The pain is so severe that most cluster headache sufferers cannot sit still and will often pace during an attack. The pain is located behind one eye or in the eye region, without changing sides. The term "cluster headache" refers to headaches that have a characteristic grouping of attacks. Cluster headaches occur one to three times per day during a cluster period, which may last 2 weeks to 3 months. The headaches may disappear completely (go into "remission") for months or years, only to recur.