Headache is the most common neurological disorder by far. This Consultant’s Guide to Headaches aims to offer insight into the condition as well as information to seek help.

As an isolated symptom, headache is very rarely caused by tumours or a ‘serious’ underlying disease. Nevertheless, it is often still a significant problem for the patient. It affects almost everyone occasionally.

However, it can be a significant problem for an estimated 40% of people in the UK at some time in their lives.
Migraines also affect 15% of the UK adult population. Up to 100,000 people are absent from work or school because of migraine on any one day in the UK. This represents an enormous cost burden to employers.

What are the different types of headaches?

A headache is classified as ‘primary’ if there is not a structural abnormality (such as a tumour) or another clear trigger for it such as a head injury. The most common primary headache conditions are migraines and tension-type headaches.

Neurologists categorise headaches depending on symptoms and causes. This Consultant’s Guide to Headaches details this below.

Migraine headaches are usually one-sided, severe throbbing headaches with accompanying nausea. The discomfort is worsened by bright light and loud noise. They can last anywhere between 4 hours and 3 days. The headache is not always the most troublesome symptom.

If in the last three months you have had the following, you have probably had a migraine.

  • Headache associated with a feeling of nausea
  • Troubled by bright light
  • Symptoms limited your ability to work

Tension-type headaches affect up to 80% of people from time to time. They are often referred to as a ‘normal’ or ‘ordinary’ headache. Consequently, most are treated without reference to physicians, using over-the-counter (OTC) medications which are generally effective.

Nevertheless, it can be a disabling headache for several hours. The high prevalence of this disorder means its economic burden through lost work is significant and if OTC medications are taken too frequently, a medication overuse headache can occur.

Cluster headaches are much less common than migraines or tension headaches but are intense and frequently recurring.

Medication-overuse headaches are usually characterised by a chronic daily headache. This is the most common cause of ‘secondary’ headache. It often presents in combination with migraines, or mild head or neck injury.

Caffeine overuse or withdrawal and a number of other medical conditions such as anaemia and thyroid problems can also cause headaches.

Consultant’s Guide to Headaches – More Information

Dr Dominic Paviour is highly rated as a Consultant Neurologist in London, not only by his peers but most importantly, by his patients. To discuss more detail about this Consultant’s Guide to Headaches simply contact us so we can respond and discuss how we can help.