Treatments Focus

Headaches / Migraine

A traffic jam, hot weather, no water, and a jumble of plans can make anyone’s head hurt. Headache is the type of pain or discomfort that people experience very often. Untreated, it contributes to absenteeism from work and school and can even lead to other medical issues like depression. According to the Global Disease Burden survey, nearly 488 million people in India suffered from headaches in 2019, with 16% experiencing migraines.

When you have a headache, you may feel like it is in your head, but in reality, it’s not. In fact, the muscles and blood vessels surrounding your head, eyes, ears, sinuses, neck, and shoulders have pain-sensing nerves. So, when set off in response to stress, muscle tension, enlarged blood vessels, and other triggers, these nerves send pain signals to your brain, causing most headaches.

There are three major categories of headaches, based on the source, severity, location, and duration: primary headaches, secondary headaches, and cranial neuralgias/facial pain/other headaches.

Migraine and tension-type headaches are the most common primary headaches, which aren’t symptoms of any underlying medical issue. While secondary headaches are usually associated with systemic illness or disease.

Symptoms of a Headache

Pain is the most crucial symptom that all forms of headaches share. Depending on the type of headache you may have, you can experience pain:

On one or both sides of the head

In the back part of the head or neck

Behind one of the eyes

Around the nose, cheek, and forehead area

Your pain can appear gradually or suddenly. Or, it can be temporary or persistent, with or without episodes of increasing severity.

Most headaches do not necessitate medical attention. But seek advice from your doctor if you experience these additional symptoms, as they may be a sign of an ongoing issue in your body.

Facial swelling

Stuffy nose

Watery eyes


Sleep problems

Double or blurry visions

Loss of balance

Nausea and vomiting

Noise and light sensitivity


Speech difficulties

Change in behavior

Numbness in the arms and legs

Concentration and memory issues

Stiffening of muscles in specific areas of the head and neck

Causes of Headache

The common causes of headaches include the following triggers.

  • Emotional stress
  • Smoking
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Alcohol use
  • Change in sleeping habit
  • Hormonal shift (during pregnancy and menstruation)
  • Dehydration
  • Skipped meal
  • Poor posture
  • Food allergies
  • Strong aromas
  • Effects of certain medication
  • Change in weather
  • Eye problem

Diagnosis and Treatment

For most headaches, though, a good old-fashioned history and physical examination are sufficient. You may, however, still be asked to undergo a CT scan or MRI, an EEG (brain wave test), and various blood tests if you present with any of the warning signs noted above. This would help in treatment.

Different types of headaches are treated differently, and no single treatment works for all patients. Therefore, learning about your headache triggers is the most important aspect of relieving your pain and reducing the number of headaches you can have.

Accordingly, your treatment plan would include:

  • Lifestyle changes
  • Stress management through relaxation and mindful techniques
  • Over the counter (OTC) pain relievers (ibuprofen or acetaminophen)
  • Physical therapy
  • Biofeedback (to control heart rate, body temperature, muscle tension, and blood pressure)
  • Preventive therapy (like calcium channel blockers, anti-depressants, etc.)

FAQ's :

Are headaches hereditary?
Not all, but some forms of migraine headaches are genetic in origin. This means that they tend to run in families, and if one or both of your parents have it, you have a 50-70 percent chance of developing it too. However, having migraine genes do not always mean you’ll get the disorder, as the disorder is also influenced by the environment, such as stress or hormonal changes.
Which genes contribute to migraine susceptibility?
More than 40 genetic locations with variations in the development of different forms of migraines have been identified. Although many are related to nerve signaling and blood vessel function, they make people more vulnerable to new attacks whenever their environment changes. Some of the most common genes are TRESK, CACNA1A, SCN1A, and ATP1A2.  
What are genetic tests available to diagnose migraine?
Various gene testing panels, including coding and non-coding variants of specific migraine genes, are widely available to see if you are genetically predisposed to the disease. Some panels will also have mitochondrial markers. However, keep in mind that the combination of markers used in panels may differ from provider to provider. Yet, knowing your genetic background allows you to receive an earlier, more accurate diagnosis with more personalized treatment options.
Which gender is more likely to experience migraine attacks as a result of a genetic predisposition?
Women are two to three times more likely to suffer migraines than men. And more frequently, in their thirties, when their hormone levels fluctuate dramatically due to pregnancy and post-pregnancy.


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  6. Are migraines hereditary? Evidence and treatments. (2021, July 23).
  7. Yan, B. M., Depoy, E. G., Ahmad, A., & Nahas, S. J. (2021). Biomarkers in Migraine. Neurology India, 69(7), 17.
  8. Genetics of Migraine—Is There any Progress? (2017). Journal of Neurology & Stroke, Volume 7(Issue 4).
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  10. Genetics and migraine. The Migraine Trust. Retrieved May 14, 2022, from

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