There are few things that can shut down your entire day and everything you planned to do like a bad headache. While some are minor and can be tackled by popping an aspirin, drinking some water, and eating a snack, others are much more severe and require medical intervention to treat. While minor headaches often have causes like lack of sleep, lack of hydration, too much alcohol, or caffeine withdrawal, some headaches are symptomatic of an actual medical condition. If you have severe headaches that focus on one particular side of your head, there are a few things that could be going on, and you should definitely speak to your healthcare provider to determine which type of headache you’re having so that you can properly take them on and reduce your symptoms and occurrences. Much more is known now about the various types of headaches, and treatment options are always expanding.
If your severe headaches happen on the right side of your head, there’s a fair chance you are dealing with migraine or cluster headaches (via Medical News Today). Migraines feel like a severe pulsing, throbbing, stabbing pain on the side of the head, often near the temple and/or behind the eye. Vision disturbances, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting are common symptoms that occur with this type of headache. Untreated migraines can land a person in a dark silent room for several hours to days at a time. Common triggers for migraines can be foods like caffeine, alcohol, and chocolate, lack of sleep, stress, hormonal changes in women, loud noises, and bright lights. Treatment for migraines vary from preventative medications to drugs that can be taken at the onset of a headache to traditional healing methods like acupuncture and herbal remedies.
Another headache that is severe and often happens on the right side of the head is a cluster headache. They are more rare than migraines but just as severe. Cluster headaches come on suddenly and happen in recurring cycles. They can be sharp and debilitating headaches that occur around one eye, and sometimes “shoot” or “radiate” to other parts of the head. Other symptoms include watering eyes, stuffy or running nose, pale or flushed skin, and even swelling around the affected eye. Like migraines, no known cause other than what doctors consider a neurological abnormality is known, though triggers can sometimes be similar to those with migraines.
If you have headaches that occur on the left side, you could still be having migraines or cluster headaches if the rest of the symptoms agree with those conditions. Just because the pain is on the left side does not mean you aren’t having a migraine. It’s just that these types of headaches are more likely to affect the right side. More common types of headaches tend to affect the whole head or the left side, like tension headaches, which are the most common type of headache and affect 75 percent of adults (via Healthline). Tension headaches feel like a vice tightening around your head, and the pain can eventually be focused on one side, more commonly the left than the right.
Other common causes of left-sided headaches are stress, lack of sleep, overuse of medication or alcohol, dehydration, skipping meals, lack of sleep, or seasonal allergies. If you have headaches frequently, or if you start to get new or worsening headaches, you should see a doctor just to rule out any serious or dangerous issues. Severe and sudden head pain should always be addressed by a medical professional because life-threatening conditions like stroke or aneurysm can present as a severe and sudden headache.
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