Difference Between Headache and Dizziness

Headache and Dizziness

What is Headache?

Headache is a broad term that encompasses many different things. Headaches are pains that occur in any region of the head; they can occur on both sides the head or be isolated to a certain location.

Headaches can radiate across the head from a central point or have a pincering vise-like quality. They can be sharp, throbbing or dull, appear gradually or suddenly and last for multiple days or less than an hour.

There are multiple ways to define headaches. The International Headache Society (IHS) categorize headaches as primary headaches or secondary headaches, depending on what has caused them.

Causes of Headache

Headaches can be triggered by a variety of factors. The most common cause of headaches is prolonged tension or stress. These are called tension headaches or muscle-contraction headaches. Virtually everyone suffers from this at some time. Muscles in your scalp, neck, and face tighten and contract, causing spasms and pain. Psychological factors such as anxiety, fatigue (e.g., eyestrain), and stress (e.g., long periods of concentration) as well as mechanical factors such as neck strain (e.g., working on a computer for prolonged periods) are often the culprits behind a typical tension headache.

Migraines are generally more severe and can be debilitating. The cause of migraine is not known but many trigger factors are recognized. These include hormonal changes (during a woman’s menstrual cycle), certain foods (e.g., chocolate, aged cheeses), beverages (e.g., red wine), strong odours, lack of sleep, and even stress. It is not uncommon to experience mixed tension-migraine headaches.

Sinus headaches are less common than people think. Many people with sinus headaches actually have migraine headaches. They can occur after a bout of upper respiratory infection, such as a cold. Along with the headache, people often have a runny or stuffy nose. Sinus headaches are caused when bacteria invade and infect the nasal sinuses.

Cluster headaches are a relatively uncommon type of headache. They more often affect men, run in families, are strongly associated with cigarette smoking, and tend to occur in clusters over a few days, weeks, or months with long headache-free periods lasting from months to years. In some cases, they are triggered by alcohol. The cause is not known.

So-called “ice pick” or primary stabbing headaches are severe headaches that occur suddenly, causing a few seconds of intense pain at a small, localized spot. The exact cause of these headaches is unknown, but they are usually not due to a serious problem.

What is Dizziness?

Dizziness is a term used to describe a range of sensations, such as feeling faint, woozy, weak or unsteady. Dizziness that creates the false sense that you or your surroundings are spinning or moving is called vertigo.

Dizziness is one of the more common reasons adults visit their doctors. Frequent dizzy spells or constant dizziness can significantly affect your life. But dizziness rarely signals a life-threatening condition.

Treatment of dizziness depends on the cause and your symptoms. It’s usually effective, but the problem may recur.

Causes of Dizziness

Common causes of dizziness include a migraine, medications, and alcohol. It can also be caused by a problem in the inner ear, where balance is regulated.

Dizziness is often a result of vertigo as well. The most common cause of vertigo and vertigo-related dizziness is benign positional vertigo (BPV). This causes short-term dizziness when someone changes positions quickly, such as sitting up in bed after lying down.

Dizziness and vertigo can also be triggered by Meniere’s disease. This causes fluid to build up in the ear with associated ear fullness, hearing loss, and tinnitus. Another possible cause for dizziness and vertigo is an acoustic neuroma. This is a noncancerous tumor that forms on the nerve that connects the inner ear to the brain.

Some other possible causes of dizziness include:

  • sudden drop in blood pressure
  • heart muscle disease
  • decrease in blood volume
  • anxiety disorders
  • anemia (low iron)
  • hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
  • ear infection
  • dehydration
  • heat stroke
  • excessive exercise
  • motion sickness

In rare cases, dizziness could be caused by multiple sclerosis, a stroke, a malignant tumor, or another brain disorder.

Difference Between Headache and Dizziness

Dizziness generally is referring to true vertigo in which you are standing still and you perceive the world to be spinning around you. In Headaches are pains that occur in any region of the head, they can occur on both sides the head or be isolated to a certain location.

Treating Headache and Dizziness

Generally, the headache treatments that ease headache pain will also help ease dizziness, says Goadsby. Treatments may include:

  • Over-the-counter pain medications
  • Prescription migraine treatment
  • Medication to prevent migraine or headache
  • Antidepressants
  • Relaxation techniques
  • Biofeedback
  • Maintaining a healthy, regular diet

If your dizziness or vertigo is related to an underlying health condition, you may need other treatments. Occasionally, dizziness may be a sign of a more serious medical condition, so you should always have your symptoms evaluated by a doctor.

Dizziness is a puzzling symptom. More disconcerting than painful, it may be just one more element of a headache or migraine, and proper treatment will help bring you the relief you seek.

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