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Side Effect: Headache

What is a headache?

Headaches are characterized by pain originating in the head, or radiating from the neck into the head.

Three types of primary headache exist:

1) Migraine
2) Tension
3) Cluster

Primary headaches can be recurrent, and are usually benign, meaning they do not have a damaging effect on the body once they go away.

Secondary headaches are from known causes including, but not limited to, the following:

1) Bleeding
2) Clotting
3) Infection

What does Headache look like?

Most headaches do not show any visible signs and are not tied to other symptoms and it may be hard to describe the headache beyond where it hurts and how much it hurts. However, certain causes of headache may be accompanied by various signs or symptoms, therefore it is important to know what these are:

Headache from meningitis may also present with:

Headache from medication may also present with:

Headache from bleeding or clotting may also present with:

Who gets headaches?

In order to determine what the headache is from, the clinician will take a thourough history and conduct a focused examination.

The vast majority of headaches experienced by people are primary headaches, such as cluster or migraines. These can be brought on by many different things such as stress, dehydration, and certain medications.

Patients with cancer, or those receiving treatment for cancer, may be at higher risk of other cause of headache. Although these are much more rare, these causes of headache require immediate medical treatment:

How do you prevent headaches?

Lifeastyle modifications:

Life stressors:

Medication-induced headache:

Patients taking an anticoagulant with headache:

Medications to prevent headaches:

Botox injections:


How do you treat headaches?

Before you treat a headache with any over-the-counter medications such as acetaminophen (Tylenol®), or ibuprofen (Advil®, Motrin®), or naproxen (Aleve®), ask your doctor or pharmacist if they are safe to take. with your other medications.

Prescription medications use to treat headache:


Barbiturate-containing medications:


1. Chinthapalli K, Logan AM, Raj R, Nirmalananthan N. Assessment of acute headache in adults - what the general physician needs to know. Clin Med (Lond). 2018 Oct;18(5):422-427.

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Created: February 10, 2022 Updated: March 11, 2022