Types of Headache

Overview

Common types of headaches include migraine, tension, and cluster headaches. The symptoms of these headaches are often similar. Describing a few key symptoms of your headaches may help your doctor find out what type of headache you have. This can help your doctor treat your headaches.

Here are some key features of each type of headache.

Common types of headaches

Where the pain is

How bad the pain is

Symptoms

Migraine

Usually on one side of your head with pressure behind one eye

Throbbing, pulsating headache that is moderate to severe

Pain is so bad that it makes it hard to work or go to school

  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Feeling worse around light and noise
  • Feeling worse after physical activity like walking
  • May include an aura shortly before or during the headache
  • May last for hours to several days

Tension

On both sides or all over your head

Deep, pressing, tightening headache that does not throb or pulse and is mild to moderate

  • No nausea or vomiting
  • May be worse around light or noise (but not both)
  • May last for minutes to several days

Cluster

On one side of the face, head, or neck; does not switch sides

Piercing pain that gets very bad very fast, usually within 5 to 10 minutes

  • Watery eyes and small (constricted) pupils
  • Nasal congestion or runny nose
  • Droopy or swollen eyelids
  • Sweating on the forehead or face
  • May wake you at night
  • May have a hard time staying still because of pain
  • May occur several times a day and last for minutes to a few hours

Credits

Current as of: December 13, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
Anne C. Poinier MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica MD - Family Medicine
Kathleen Romito MD - Family Medicine