What are the Most Common Headache Triggers?
Headaches are so common that many patients consider them an unpleasant, but mundane part of daily life. However, sometimes a headache may be a symptom of a more serious health or vision issue. Understanding the most common headache triggers may help you identify when to see your optometrist or medical professional.
We hope you find this article about the most common headache triggers helpful and informative. Please be aware that it doesn’t serve as a substitute for medical advice. Since there are so many potential causes for headaches, be sure to discuss any concerns with your doctor and optometrist.
Primary Types of Headaches and Their Triggers
While there are at least a dozen types of headaches, they are categorized as either primary or secondary depending on the cause.
According to the Mayo Clinic, a primary headache is not usually a symptom of an underlying medical problem. When we discuss common headache triggers we are usually referring to causes for primary headaches. Causes vary, but primary headaches are often the result of over activity, tension or irritation in the pain sensitive head area.
Some common types of primary headaches include:
- Tension-related headaches
- Cluster headaches
- Chronic daily headaches
*Please note that sometimes chronic headaches may be a symptom of another condition but not always.
Secondary Headaches May Hint to a Deeper Issue
The Mayo Clinic describes a secondary headache as a symptom of a disease or condition that activates the sensitive nerves in the head.
Since a headache may be a sign of another condition, we recommend talking with your doctor if you start experiencing new headaches, experiencing them more frequently, or notice any changes. That way your doctor is more likely to diagnose and possibly treat the root cause.
Some causes of secondary headaches include:
- Sinus infection
- High blood pressure
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Brain aneurysm
- Blood clot
- Brain tumor
Keep in mind there are many potential causes ranging from as minor as an ice cream headache to a serious, life threatening trauma or disease. Given the range of root causes, always discuss new or changing headaches with a medical professional unless there is a known or obvious cause like a hangover.
Are Headaches Ever Caused by Eye Issues?
Since your eyes command a significant portion of your brain activity, sometimes vision-related issues can trigger headaches.
In some cases, eye strain from prolonged computer use, reading or detail-oriented tasks may cause a headache. If you need or wear corrective lenses, keeping your prescription current and wearing your glasses may reduce the likelihood of these kinds of headaches. In addition, practicing the 20-20-20 rule also may help prevent eye strain. Basically, every twenty minutes, take a 20 second break where you refocus your eyes on a non-digital object at least 20 feet away.
Sometimes dry eye may contribute to headaches. Dry eye may result from a problem with the quality or quantity of tears. It may be caused or triggered by lifestyle factors, environment, hormonal, or other medical issues. Since there are so many potential causes, it is important to inform your optometrist of any dry eye concerns.
Corneal damage or irritation may cause headache-like pain. Other possible eye-health problems that may trigger pain or headache include glaucoma, eye tissue inflammation, and optic nerve conditions. However, according to the American Migraine Foundation, headache pain around the eyes is usually the result of referred pain from elsewhere not the eyes themselves so you may also need to discuss any concerns with your primary care doctor.
Fifteen Most Common Headache Triggers
Lifestyle factors are the most common headache triggers for primary headaches and sometimes even for certain kinds of secondary headaches.
If you suffer from frequent headaches, knowing some of the triggers may enable you to make changes that lead to fewer headaches. Some of these most common headache triggers include:
- Dehydration from not drinking enough water or fluids
- Hunger from skipped meals
- Glare from the sun, bright lights, overly bright computer monitors
- Alcohol, often red wine is a common headache trigger
- Certain foods including chocolate for some people or meats containing nitrates
- Some sounds or noises
- Poor posture while working at a desk or standing
- Tension and stress
- Lack of sleep
- Too much caffeine or too little caffeine if already addicted
- Anxiety or nervousness
- Side effect of some medications
- Overexertion from work or exercise can cause swelling of the blood vessels in the head, scalp, or neck
- Allergies and sensitivities
This list just serves to demonstrate how daily life contains multiple headache triggers for most people. It is by no means a comprehensive list.
Also, becoming aware of your triggers can lead to lifestyle changes that make headaches less common once your doctor and optometrist to rule out a more serious root cause for the pain.
For example, many headache triggers are related to stress and making changes to facilitate stress management and daily relaxation may prevents tension headaches for some people. In addition, sensitivities also trigger headaches. Once someone realizes this they may start noticing patterns. For example, if you get a headache after indulging in dark chocolate and red wine, you may be able to avoid headaches by eliminating or moderating consumption of these items.
What to Do If You Are Suffering From Headaches
Since there are so many potential sources of headache pain, be sure to talk with your medical professionals about the type, frequency, and intensity of your headaches. Also, note whether there seem to be any triggers. It may help to keep a journal to document when you experience a headache and the circumstances.
Your optometrist may want to conduct a thorough examination to check for conditions like glaucoma and to make sure your eye wear prescription is up to date. In addition, your primary care doctor might also want to conduct an examination to check for other conditions. Both may offer treatment or recommendations depending on your needs.
If you live in the Charlotte area, please contact Piedmont Eye Care to schedule an appointment with one of our optometrists if you don’t already have an eye doctor. Sometimes all you need is to treat dry eye or update your prescription to eliminate some common headache triggers.