What Are the Causes of Recurring Headaches?

Headaches begin due to various causes. Some individuals experience a headache every once in awhile, while others suffer from frequent, sometimes daily, painful headaches. The frequency of recurring headaches may be reduced if sufferers can target the specific causes of their headaches.

A woman with a headache drinking a glass of wine at the end of a stressful day. Credit: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Migraine Headaches

A migraine headache typically occurs on one side of the head, but may occur on both sides at the same time as well. Some individuals experience an aura before having a migraine. An aura causes a visual disturbance such as a zigzag light in the eye or a blind spot to occur prior to the headache pain. During a migraine headache, the blood vessels in the brain constrict, then dilate, which causes the headache pain, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Stress, alcohol, foods such as cheese or chocolate, bright lights and sleep disturbances can trigger a migraine attack.


The most common type of headache -- affecting up to 78 percent of Americans -- occurs because of tension, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Some people suffer from chronic tension headaches and experience pain that begins at the back of the head and spreads forward. This type of headache also causes pain in the neck.

Brain Conditions

Any condition affecting the brain has the potential to cause recurring headaches. Brain tumors, an infection of the lining covering the brain, a brain abscess and eye disorders can cause repeat headaches until the underlying condition is under control. Uncontrolled high blood pressure may cause a pounding headache.

Sinus Problems and Allergies

Chronic sinus infections and allergies may cause recurrent headaches. A sinus infection -- generally caused by bacteria, virus or an abscessed tooth -- causes inflammation in the sinus cavity, and may cause a headache across the forehead. Seasonal allergies may cause congestion in the sinuses, also causing a headache.

Cluster Headaches

A cluster headache may cause sharp, severe pain on one side of the head at the temple. The pain may also occur around the eye. The eye and nostril on the affected side of the head may water, and the sufferer may become restless as well. The pain usually lasts between 30 and 60 minutes. The headaches occur frequently for 1 to 3 months, then do not occur again for months or even years, according to The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library.

Rebound Effect

Taking triptan medications to treat a migraine, overuse of pain medications and taking caffeine to stop the headache may cause a worsening of the headache pain. Triggering more headaches generally occurs when an individual takes the medications more frequently than two or three times per week, according to The Merck Manuals Online Medical Library.

Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, seek emergency treatment immediately.
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