A throbbing vein on your skull most likely results from a headache, and the most common type of throbbing headache is a migraine. In fact, about 12 percent of the U.S. population experiences migraine headaches, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. Although not likely, a throbbing vein on your skull also can result from other factors including the presence of a brain tumor or a stroke.
You can experience two types of headaches: primary or secondary. Primary headaches occur independently and are not connected to any underlying condition or illness. Well-known examples of primary headaches include tension headaches, cluster headaches -- which produce severe pain and appear in groups or "clusters" –- and migraine headaches. Secondary headaches, unlike primary headaches, result from another condition and include sinus headaches and hormone-related headaches, as well as more serious headaches related to brain injury, brain trauma and infections.
Migraine headaches, classified as vascular headaches, or headaches associated with your brain's blood vessels or vascular system, typically produce throbbing and pulsating pain on one side of your skull. These painful headaches can result in nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light. Before a migraine, some people experience a warning sign, such as problems with vision, called an aura. This type of headache makes your blood vessels narrow and briefly decreases the flow of blood and oxygen to you brain, causing other blood vessels to open wider for increased blood flow. Resulting pain occurs when nerve fibers inside the walls of your brain's blood vessels send pain messages to the brain.
Migraine headaches can occur for reasons including abnormal brain activity, stress, certain foods and food allergies. Triggers include alcohol, certain odors, smoking, hunger, loud noises, changes in hormone levels and different sleep patterns. Foods such as chocolate, nuts, onions, dairy products, peanut butter, bacon and bananas also can increase your risk of a migraine. This type of headache tends to appear between the ages of 10 and 46 and affects three times more women than men, according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
Some headaches require immediate doctor consultation and can indicate serious underlying conditions. For instance, if you experience a rare sudden and severe headache, or an intense headache with fever, nausea and vomiting not related to another illness, promptly seek medical attention. An unusual headache accompanied by confusion, weakness, double vision and a loss of consciousness also requires medical attention. In addition, a headache along with a loss of sensation or body weakness can indicate a stroke. Mini-strokes, or transient ischemic attacks, cause mild to moderate throbbing headaches similar to migraines. Headaches also can indicate the presence of a brain tumor, which cannot be diagnosed by the description of the headache itself, according to the Michigan Headache and Neurological Institute.
Is This an Emergency?
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stoke: Headache: Hope Through Research
- Cleveland Clinic; Stroke; 2009
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Migraine -- Overview
- Michigan Headache Neurological Institute: Headaches and Brain Tumors
- Homeopathy Clinic; Headache and Migraine; Dr. Sahni, B.S.
- "Neurology Reviews" ; When a Headache Just Isn't a Headache; Elliot Richman, Ph.D. ; November 2000