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Expert advice on advanced diagnosis and treatment of painful headaches and migraines from the leading headache clinic in New Jersey.

Unilateral Headaches

Gabriel Santos - Tuesday, December 17, 2013

The Painful Side of Unilateral Headaches

Feeling a constant throbbing sensation on one side of your head? It is likely that you are suffering from cluster headaches or unilateral migraines. As the name suggests, the pain affects one side of the head and is usually quite intense in nature. Cluster headache is a condition where the patient experiences recurrent and severe unilateral headaches. It is a fairly common form of chronic, repeated pain, and men tend to suffer from it more often than women. A bout of regular attacks – or clusters – can last from a few days, to weeks, to even a month. This is followed by a remission period during which no headache occurs.

Migraines can also be Unilateral

Even though migraines cause pain all over the head, the pain often starts or is concentrated on one side of the head. According to statistics, more than half of migraine sufferers complain that their attacks cause pain on one side of the head. The term migraine itself is derived from the Latin word hemicrania which means pain on one side of the head.

Unilateral headaches are seen more in the case of migraines because they are much more common than cluster headaches (affects only 1 in 1000 people). Besides throbbing pain on one side, the person may experience other symptoms like vomiting, nausea and visual sensitivity to light. Some sufferers tend to feel weak and may have difficulty walking.

What Triggers Unilateral Headaches?

Emotional stress can be one reason for a migraine to trigger. But a number of food and lifestyle choices can also affect the condition. Foods like chocolate, alcohol, caffeine, nuts, tyramine (a natural chemical found in foods such as yogurt, sour cream and aged cheese) can trigger a headache. Similarly, not eating on time or not getting enough sleep can also lead to a migraine attack

Unlike cluster headaches, women suffer from migraines more than men. For some women, menstrual hormones cause monthly migraine episodes.

Cluster headaches are a little more complicated than migraines. Research suggests that a part of the brain called the hypothalamus becomes overactive during each attack. However, the reason for this over-activity is not known. During the attack, the hypothalamus is thought to release chemicals which may stimulate nerve cells in the brain to cause the pain and other symptoms.

Both kinds of unilateral headaches need to be treated so as to provide relief to the person.  A thorough diagnosis and counseling can go a long way in finding a permanent solution.

At the New Jersey Headache Institute we have an experienced and knowledgeable team of doctors who specialize in treating all kinds of headaches. You are assured of detailed counseling and excellent treatment options that will help you get rid of your unilateral headache for good.

Call us at 908.315.5707 and book a consultation today.




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