Secondary Headaches: What Exactly Are they?

July 28, 2020

Secondary headaches are enough to get anyone down, but what exactly is a secondary headache, anyway?

Secondary headaches are a symptom of something else happening in your body. This means that if a condition triggers these headaches continuously, the headaches can become chronic symptoms. In most cases, handling the cause of the headache will also cure the headache itself.

Sinus/Allergy Headaches

Sinus headaches are caused by mucus build up in your sinus cavities and increasing pressure. An allergic reaction can sometimes cause this reaction. 

Generally, the pain from these headaches happens in the sinus areas on your forehead and around your cheekbones. Treatment consists of thinning out the mucus that builds, whether with nasal steroid sprays, decongestants, or antihistamines.

These headaches can be caused by a sinus infection, which can be treated by your doctor with prescribed antibiotics to clear the infection.

Hormone and Hypertension

Though these headaches may be secondary by nature, that doesn’t mean that the source isn’t from your own body. Fluctuations in our bodies’ natural systems can lead to headaches as well.

Women experience hormonal headaches due to fluctuations in estrogen levels. These headaches can occur before, during, or right after menses, as well as during ovulation. Menstruation, birth control pills, and pregnancy can all affect your estrogen levels, leading to hormonal headaches.

Another internal cause of headaches is hypertension or high blood pressure. This kind of headache signals an emergency due to it occurring when your blood pressure is dangerously high.

Usually occurring on both sides of your head and will feel worse with any activity and often feels pulsating. You may notice blurred vision, tingling or numbness, nosebleeds, chest pain, or shortness of breath.

Seek immediate medical attention if you feel you are experiencing a hypertension headache. They will generally go away soon after your blood pressure is under control and shouldn’t occur as long as your blood pressure stays managed.

Quick Care Med OTC Headaches


Caffeine and Rebound Headaches

Some outside sources or stimulants cause headaches, or in some cases, it’s a lack of a source that causes a headache.

Caffeine headaches can be caused by having too much or too little caffeine compared to their regular use. It affects your brain’s blood flow, so when you give your brain a certain amount of the stimulant a day, it will adjust accordingly and expect it. Caffeine changes your brain chemistry, and withdrawal from it can trigger a headache.

Keeping your caffeine intake at a steady, reasonable level, or quitting it entirely, can prevent headaches.

Overuse of medication causes rebound headaches. Those who suffer from these headaches often take OTC medications, like acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, and Naproxen, for more than 15 days out of the month. These headaches feel like a dull, tension-type headache and can cause more intense pain, similar to the pain experienced with a migraine.

Overuse of these OTC medications leads to more headaches rather than fewer. The only treatment for rebound headaches is to wean yourself off of the medication you have been taking. It may feel worse initially, but it should subside after a few days.

Generally, episodic headaches will go away within a couple of days. If you experience any headaches that last for more than two days, you should seek medical assistance.

As well as if you are experiencing headaches for more than 15 days out of the month for a few months, you may have a chronic condition. See your doctor to try and find out the cause, even if you can manage the pain. Headaches can be a symptom of a more severe condition and may require more than some OTC medications to treat.

If you are experiencing a headache that just won’t quit, drop by one of our 10 locations or click here to schedule a Telemedicine appointment. 

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