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A headache is pain or discomfort in the head or face area. Headaches vary greatly in terms of pain location, pain intensity, and how frequently they occur. As a result of this variation, several types of headache have been created by the International Headache Society (IHS) to more precisely define specific types of headaches.

There are several areas in the head that can hurt when you have a headache, including the following:

  • a network of nerves that extends over the scalp
  • certain nerves in the face, mouth, and throat
  • muscles of the head
  • blood vessels found along the surface and at the base of the brain (these contain delicate nerve fibers)

The bones of the skull and tissues of the brain itself do not hurt because they do not have pain-sensitive nerve fibers.

Learn more about the different types of headaches and what symptoms of a headache suggest the need to contact your physician.

Causes of Headache

The causes of headaches can be a number of conditions, such as disorders of the neck, eyes, brain, jaw, or teeth. Headaches with an underlying medical condition are classified as secondary headaches because they are related to the condition. An example of this would be a headache due to neck injury or sinus infection. Additional conditions that may result in headache as a symptom include:

  • brain aneurysms
  • brain tumors
  • Chiari malformation
  • concussion
  • migraines

The causes of headaches experienced by the majority of children and adolescents are not due to serious underlying problems. Both physical and emotional factors must be considered when evaluating headaches.

Headaches classified as primary indicate that the headache itself is the main medical problem, although underlying non-medical causes, such as muscle tension or foods, may be identified. Other contributing causes of headaches may include medications, dehydration, or changing levels of hormones. These factors that influence headaches are sometimes called headache triggers.