Pain may be described as the unpleasant awareness of a noxious stimulus or bodily harm. Individuals experience pain by various hurts and aches, and sometimes through more serious injuries or illnesses. Pain of any type is the most common reason for physician consultation in the United States, prompting half of all Americans to seek medical care annually. It is a major symptom in many medical conditions, significantly interfering with a person's quality of life and general functioning. Diagnosis is based on describing pain in various ways — according to duration, intensity, type (dull, burning, throbbing or stabbing), source or location in body.
Headache is a term used to describe aching or pain that occurs in one or more areas of the head, face, mouth or neck. Headache can be chronic, recurrent or occasional. The pain can be mild or severe enough to disrupt daily activities. Headaches fall into two categories — primary and secondary.
Primary headaches account for about 90% of all headaches, and include three types — tension, cluster and migraine. Tension headache is the most common. Episodes usually begin in middle age and are often associated with the stress, anxiety and depression that can develop during these years. Cluster headaches occur daily over a period of weeks, sometimes months. They may disappear and then recur during the same season in the following year. A migraine headache is a throbbing or pulsating headache that is often one-sided and associated with nausea, vomiting, sleep disruption, depression and sensitivity to light, sound and smells. Attacks are often recurrent and tend to become less severe as the migraine sufferer ages.
Secondary headaches are associated with an underlying condition such as cerebrovascular disease, head trauma, infection, tumor or metabolic disorder. Head pain also can result from syndromes involving the eyes, ears, neck, teeth or sinuses. In these cases, the underlying condition must be diagnosed and treated. Also, certain medications may include headache as a side effect.
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