What Are the Causes of Vascular Headaches?

There are four types of headaches, including tension headaches, inflammatory headaches, traction headaches and vascular headaches. A vascular headache occurs because of abnormal functioning with the blood vessels in the brain. Three types of vascular headaches include migraine, cluster and toxic headaches. Vascular headaches cause intense pain for the individual, and avoiding the causes for the conditions may help reduce the amount of headaches.

A woman is suffering from a headache. Credit: Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

Foods and Drink

Certain food and beverages may trigger vascular headaches. Drinking alcohol — especially beer and wine — may cause migraine headaches. After a cluster headache begins, drinking alcohol may intensify the pain. Foods that may cause vascular headaches include onions, peanut butter, nuts, chocolate, aged cheese, dairy, picked foods, avocado, citrus fruits and bananas. Foods containing MSG or meats containing nitrates such as lunch meats, bacon and hot dogs may also cause headaches.

Heat and Humidity

Exposure to heat and humidity may cause vascular headaches. Increased temperatures outside increases the risk of developing the condition, but internal temperatures can also trigger a headache. A high fever caused by medical conditions such as tonsillitis, mumps, pneumonia and the measles causes a toxic headache, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center.


Hypertension, also referred to as high blood pressure, may increase high enough to cause a vascular headache. The headache is usually dull in mild cases of hypertension. A severe headache caused by high blood pressure may signify a life-threatening condition, according to MayoClinic.com.


Bright lights may trigger a vascular headache. Sunlight, UV lights and a bright light from a TV or a movie screen may contribute to the cause of the headache, according to the National Headache Foundation.


Changes in hormone levels and abnormal levels of hormones in the body may cause vascular headaches. Common hormones that may cause the headaches include melatonin and cortisol, according to MayoClinic.com. Women may experience migraine headaches because of hormone fluctuations due to pregnancy or a menstrual period.


Medications may cause a vascular headache. Common headache triggering medications include drugs used dilate blood vessels. Taking an over-the-counter medication to treat a headache may also trigger recurrent headaches, referred to as a rebound headache.

Stress and Sleep Changes

Stress may trigger vascular headaches. Physical exertion and over stimulation of the body may induce a headache. Any change in sleep patterns including too much or too little sleep may also cause the headache to occur.

Is This an Emergency?

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