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More than 90% of the population experience headache at some time

Headaches can be classified as: 1,2

  • PRIMARY: cause of the headache is not known
  • SECONDARY: headaches caused by infection, trauma, vascular disease, brain disorder etc.
tension headachemigraine headachescluster headachesinus headache

Tension headache2

Migraine headache2

Cluster headache2,3

Sinus headache1,4

  • Most common type of headache (40 %)
  • Pain on both sides of head
  • Pain is described as a mild to moderate pressure or tightness
  • Tissues in the head and neck can be tender to touch
  • Pain is not aggravated by routine physical activity like walking
  • Affects 10 % of headache sufferers
  • Pain is on one side of the head
  • Pain is severe (may be disabling) and pulsatile or throbbing in nature
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Bright light and loud noise make the pain worse
  • Physical activity may make the pain worse
  • Some patients may experience aura (pins-and-needles, numbness, speech disturbance, flickering lights)
  • Relatively rare type of headache (1 %) that occurs in cycles or clusters
  • Pain is mostly on one side of the head, but can occur on both sides
  • Excruciating pain mostly felt behind one eye but can also affect jaw, teeth, cheek, neck areas
  • Typically pain lasts 15 min to 3 hours
  • Associated with swelling of eyelid, tearing, blocked nose or sweating forehead on the same side as pain
  • Relatively rare as studies have shown that most sinus headaches are in fact migraines
  • Pain is felt in the cheeks, brow or forehead
  • Pain is described as a pressure or fullness
  • Pain is worsened by bending forward or lying down
  • Associated with stuffy nose, discoloured nasal discharge, decreased sense of smell, pain in the upper teeth

When is a headache dangerous

How can I manage my headache

References: 1. Mulwafu W, Prescott C, Kesler S. Sinus Headaches: An overview. SA Pharmaceut J Sept 2007:20-21a.  2. Hainer BL, Matheson EM. Approach to Acute Headache in Adults. Am Fam Phys 2013;87(10):682-687. 3.  Mayo Clinic. Cluster Headaches. [online] [cited 2018 Apr 19]. 4.  Mayo Clinic. Sinus Headaches. [online] [cited 2018 Apr 19]. Available from: URL:

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