Headache Home > Causes of Headaches
When inflammation, movement, or spasms affect pain-sensitive areas (such as the skin, muscles, and sinuses), headaches can occur. Because there are so many pain-sensitive areas, there are many conditions that can cause headaches. An injury to the neck, a stroke, and high blood pressure are common causes, among other things.
What Causes Headaches?Headaches occur when pain-sensitive areas inside or outside of the head or neck are affected by inflammation, movement, spasms, or a variety of other situations. These pain-sensitive areas can include muscles, blood vessels, the skin, nerves, and sinuses, to name a few.
Because there are so many pain-sensitive areas in the head and neck, there are many conditions that can cause headaches. To help separate these causes, healthcare providers will often categorize headaches into one of three different categories:
- Acute headaches, which are headaches that are new in onset or clearly different from any that have been experienced before
- Subacute headaches, which occur over a period of weeks to months
- Chronic headaches, which are headaches that have occurred for years.
Causes of Acute HeadachesThere are many different causes of acute headaches. In some cases, an acute headache may signify something serious. In other cases, they may occur with less serious conditions, like a viral infection or fever.
Some possible causes of these headaches include:
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage, which is bleeding into the space just outside of the brain
- A stroke
- A transient ischemic attack (TIA or "mini-stroke")
- Retinal artery embolism
- Carotid artery endarterectomy
Seizures (which can lead to postictal headaches)
A lumbar puncture (spinal tap) or spinal anesthesia (which can lead to spinal headaches)
- A concussion or other head injury (which can lead to postconcussion headaches)
- A sudden rise in blood pressure, such as with malignant hypertension or pheochromocytoma
- Intercourse (which can lead to coital headaches or orgasm headaches)
- Acute iritis
- Certain infections, such as ear infections, strep throat, sinus infections (which can lead to sinus headaches), Lyme disease, or the flu.