There are two types of headaches, primary and secondary. Primary headaches are not caused by other medical conditions and include migraines, cluster headaches, and tension headaches. Secondary headaches usually result from another medical condition and can be a sign of an underlying health problem such as fever, infection, high blood pressure, stroke, head injury, or brain tumor. Understanding the difference between primary and secondary headaches can alert you to seek medical treatment.

What is a Primary Headache?

Primary headaches are much more common and include migraines. While migraine headaches can be very painful and even debilitating, they do not indicate a more serious health problem. Even though migraines are not a sign of a more serious health problem, it is important to discuss your migraines with your primary care physician to determine a treatment plan to lessen the pain and frequency of the migraine.

What is a Secondary Headache?

Secondary headaches are relatively rare and are broken up further into two categories, benign and ominous. Benign headaches are reactions to a temporary condition, such as a headache caused by medication overuse. Ominous headaches are a precursor to a health event or condition, such as “thunderclap” headache signaling a brain hemorrhage.

What are Characteristics of a Secondary Headache?

Some characteristics of a secondary-headache that may indicate a serious problem include:

  • a severe headache that comes on abruptly without buildup;
  • increased frequency or a change in the character of recurrent headaches;
  • headaches that start either early on or later in life (under 5 or over 50);
  • headache accompanied by weakening or loss of vision;
  • headache accompanied by fever;
  • the first or worst headache of your life;
  • and the presence of cancer, HIV or pregnancy.

If you have a headache with any of these symptoms, it is important to get an evaluation by a health professional as soon as possible. Ignoring the symptoms can cause long-term damage.

While most headaches are not life-threatening, it is important to recognize the warning signs when they are. If you experience recurrent headaches, a headache journal is helpful in identifying patterns and the type of headaches you experience. In the journal, note specifics such as what you were doing when the headache started, the time of day, accompanying symptoms, the headaches frequency, duration, and intensity. Also note in the journal any medication usage and changes in headache pattern. The headache journal will prove a valuable resource in determining if an isolated headache is primary or secondary.

We would love to learn what would be helpful on this page for you.

Articles by tag

2020 2021-top-workplace 4th-of-July 5-star-physician aberdeen Acetaminophen ACLS AED air-purification allentown Allergies amerigroup announcement Antibiotics anxiety Asthma autumn award awards back-to-school baltimore baltimore-child baltimore's-child baltimore-sun beach bedside-manner bel-air best-for-families Best-Of best-of-2019 Best-of-2020 best-of-award best-of-awards Best-of-Jewish-times-winner best-urgent-care Best-urgent-Care-Bowie-Blade-News best-workplace bethlehem Biking Black-Friday blog Blood-Donation BLS Blueberries blue-cross blue-shield capital-gazette careers CDC children with disabilities Cholesterol Circadian-Rhythm cold-prevention colon-cancer concussion coronavirus covid-19 COVID-19-Test CPR cramp-prevention Dehydration dental-health depression Dermatitis Diabetes drowning drug screening Dry-Skin eastern-pa easton Eating-Disorder Eating-Disorders employees Ergonomics E-Scooter exercise eye-health face-mask fall fall-sports Farmer's-Market First-Aid fitness Flu flu-season flu-shots food-storage food-swaps football for moms for-moms for-parents fredericksburg free-play Gastrointestinal General Generation-X-Health gift-ideas Good-Fats Halloween hand foot and mouth hand-foot-and-mouth Hand-Washing Hanukkah harrisburg headache Head-Lice Healthcare Health-History health-symptoms healthy-eating healthy-living healthy-swaps heart-disease Heart-Health Heat Heat-Exhaustion Heat-Safety hiking holiday holidays horizonBCBS horizon-blue-cross horizon-blue-shield horizon-insurance Humidifier hydration Illnesses inclusivity inclusivity-&-accessability injury-prevention Insect-Stings insurance jetlag Kidney Kwanzaa lehigh-valley life-support-class Lightning maryland Mask meal-prep Meatless-Monday mechanicsburg medical-records melanoma memory-retention Men's-Health Mental-Health Migrane millennial Millennials montco montco-pa montgomery-county montgomery-county-pa Movember MRSA new jersey new-center new-jersey new-year New-Year's northern-va northern-virginia nova nurtition Nutrition Obesity occupational health ocean-safety osteoporosis outdoors Paddle-Sports PALS parent tips Parenting parenting-tips parent-tips patient-first pennsylvania pets philadelphia philly physicals poison-ivy poison-prevention Power-Outage Pregnancy Probiotics Productivity Protein pumpkin recipe recipes registration reicpes resolutions richmond River Running safety Safety-Tips Seasonal-Affective-Disorder services shin-splings sick kid Sickness-Prevention simply-the-best skin sleep Smoke-Detector smoking Snow soccer sore-throat south-jersey sports Sports-Injuries Sports-Physicals spotsylvania Spring spring-cleaning St.-Patrick's-Day stafford Stitches strep Strep-Throat stress stress-managment stroke summer summer-sports Sunburn Sunglasses Sun-Safety Sunscreen Swimmer's-ear swimming TBI Teal-Pumpkin Teething test Thyroid tick tips-for-parents top-physicians top-workplace traveling-tips travel-tips Travel-Vaccines unitedhealthcare urgent-care Urinary-health vacation vaccinations vaccines Valentine's-Day Valentines-Day Video Vitamin-D volunteering walking washington-dc washington-post washington-post-2019 Water-Sports Weight-Lifting wellness winter Workouts Yard-Work Yearly-Physical