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Headaches are a condition characterized by experiencing any type of pain or discomfort in the head. They can fall into a number of different types or categories depending on their cause, symptoms and duration or frequency. Chronic daily headaches, cluster headaches, compression headaches, migraines, rebound headaches, tension headaches and sinus headaches are just some of the different types of headaches and each creates a different experience based on a distinct cause.

Causes, Risk Factors and Complications of Headaches

The exact cause behind many types of headaches is unknown, but most forms of head pain have triggers or risk factors that should be considered. Tension headaches, for example, are triggered by depression, stress, anxiety, poor posture and jaw clenching. Sinus headaches are caused by sinusitis or inflammation of the membranes lining the sinus cavities. Rebound headaches are caused by a response to pain reliever use.

Environmental factors and genetics both play a role in the development of migraine headaches, and there are a number of potential triggers including foods, stress, hormonal changes and sensory stimuli such as sun glare and bright lights. External compression headaches occur when something tight is worn on the head for too long. The cause behind cluster headaches is as yet unknown, but they typically occur in a clock-like fashion in that they occur with regularity, often following the seasons. Cluster headaches typically are not associated with triggers.

The complications associated with headaches can vary from each type. The complications associated with chronic headaches include: depression, anxiety and sleep disturbances. Some complications for compression headaches include: migraines and more serious headaches. Migraine complications include: abdominal problems, rebound headaches and serotonin syndrome, which is a life-threatening drug interaction. Because complications of untreated headaches issues can be so severe, seeking adequate medical attention is essential.

Signs, Symptoms and Testsof Headaches

Tension headaches appear as a dull and aching pain with pressure or tightness across the forehead and the back of the head, loss of appetite and scalp, neck and shoulder tenderness. Sinus headaches present with pain or fullness in the cheeks, nasal discharge, sore throat, fever, fatigue and an achy feeling in the upper teeth. Rebound headaches occur daily, often first thing in the morning and they tend to respond to pain relievers, but return as soon as the medication has worn off.

There are different stages of migraines, each presenting with a different set of symptoms. The pro-dome stage may include: neck stiffness, irritability, food cravings, hyperactivity, diarrhea, constipation and depression. The aura stage presents with vision loss, visual phenomena, speech and language issues and pin and needle sensations in the legs. The migraine attack itself will last between four and 72 hours when left untreated. External compression headaches present as a constant pressure headache with its focus on the area where the tight article was worn. Typical signs and symptoms of cluster headaches include: excruciating pain around the eyes and face, single sided pain, excessive tearing, restlessness, sweating and pale skin, reduced pupil size and drooping eyelids.

Treatment, Drugs and Preventionof Headaches

Treatment options for headaches fall into two categories: pain relief medications and preventive medications. Pain relievers are designed to take away the pain during the current headache, but will not work with all types of headaches including rebound headaches for example. Preventive medications are designed to eradicate potential causes for headaches in order to make them less likely to occur. Preventive medications are most often used for chronic daily headaches, cluster headaches and migraine headaches.