What causes headaches? – Dan Kwartler

What causes headaches? – Dan Kwartler


In ancient Greece, headaches were
considered powerful afflictions. Victims prayed for relief from Asclepius,
the god of medicine. And if pain continued, a medical practitioner would perform
the best-known remedy— drilling a small hole in the
skull to drain supposedly infected blood. This dire technique, called trepanation, often replaced the headache
with a more permanent condition. Fortunately, doctors today don’t resort
to power tools to cure headaches. But we still have a lot
to learn about this ancient ailment. Today, we’ve classified headaches
into two camps— primary headaches and secondary headaches. The former are not symptomatic of an
underlying disease, injury, or condition; they are the condition. But we’ll come back to them in a minute because while primary headaches
account for 50% of reported cases, we actually know much more
about secondary headaches. These are caused by other health problems, with triggers ranging
from dehydration and caffeine withdrawal to head and neck injury, and heart disease. Doctors have classified
over 150 diagnosable types, all with different potential causes,
symptoms, and treatments. But we’ll take just one common case
—a sinus infection—as an example. The sinuses are a system of cavities that spread behind
our foreheads, noses, and upper cheeks. When our sinuses are infected, our immune response heats up the area, roasting the bacteria and inflaming
the cavities well past their usual size. The engorged sinuses put pressure
on the cranial arteries and veins, as well as muscles in the neck and head. Their pain receptors, called nociceptors,
trigger in response, cueing the brain to release a flood
of neuropeptides that inflame the cranial blood
vessels, swelling and heating up the head. This discomfort,
paired with hyper-sensitive head muscles, creates the sore,
throbbing pain of a headache. Not all headache pain comes from swelling. Tense muscles and inflamed,
sensitive nerves cause varying degrees
of discomfort in each headache. But all cases are reactions
to some cranial irritant. While the cause is clear
in secondary headaches, the origins of primary headaches
remain unknown. Scientists are still investigating
potential triggers for the three types of primary headaches: recurring, long-lasting migraines; intensely painful,
rapid-fire cluster headaches; and, most common of all,
the tension headache. As the name suggests, tension headaches are known for creating
the sensation of a tight band squeezed around the head. These headaches increase the tenderness of
the pericranial muscles, which then painfully pulse
with blood and oxygen. Patients report stress, dehydration,
and hormone changes as triggers, but these don’t fit
the symptoms quite right. For example, in dehydration headaches, the frontal lobe actually
shrinks away from the skull, creating forehead swelling that doesn’t match the location
of the pain in tension headaches. Scientists have theories
for what the actual cause is, ranging from spasming blood vessels to overly sensitive nociceptors, but no one knows for sure. Meanwhile, most headache research is
focused on more severe primary headaches. Migraines are recurring headaches, which
create a vise-like sensation on the skull that can last from four hours
to three days. In 20% of cases, these attacks are
intense enough to overload the brain
with electrical energy, which hyper-excites sensory nerve endings. This produces hallucinations called auras, which can include seeing flashing lights and geometric patterns
and experiencing tingling sensations. Cluster headaches,
another primary headache type, cause burning, stabbing bursts
of pain behind one eye, leading to a red eye, constricted pupil,
and drooping eyelid. What can be done about these conditions, which dramatically affect
many people’s quality of life? Tension headaches and most secondary cases can be treated with
over-the-counter pain medications, such as anti-inflammatory drugs
that reduce cranial swelling. And many secondary headache triggers, like dehydration, eye strain, and stress, can be proactively avoided. Migraines and cluster headaches
are more complicated, and we haven’t yet discovered reliable
treatments that work for everyone. But thankfully, pharmacologists
and neurologists are hard at work cracking these pressing mysteries
that weigh so heavily on our minds.

100 comments on “What causes headaches? – Dan Kwartler

  1. TED-Ed Post author

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    Reply
  2. sean lim Post author

    I have the cure for all kinds of headaches

    Sleep well eat well drink more water and exercise more. Period.

    And most importantly, don't study too hard, work too hard, or push yourself too hard. Have a work life balance and remember to take a breather every now and then.

    Reply
  3. Nicolás Esteban Post author

    TED-ed, the best way to practive my english and, at the same time, learn about very interesting topics. Thank you for this valuable content!

    Reply
  4. remmie ! Post author

    I get a headache in my forehead in various places every day but I simply walk it off because I get it so often and it only hurts if I apply pressure onto said area :/

    Reply
  5. lol e PoP piegion Rj Post author

    I am 19 year old and I don't have an headache in this 19 years why is that is that a disease amigo

    Reply
  6. G U C C I • Post author

    I have a masive headache and this popped out in my recommendations..! YouTube is a voodoo 🤦‍♀️😂

    Reply
  7. MrVanillaCaramel Post author

    Shame on you for not mentioning cluster headaches are preventable with magic mushrooms once a month.

    Reply
  8. Angelbabylove1218 Post author

    I get sinus infections a lot 😥 I’m also allergic to all four of my pets… (three cats and a dog)

    Reply
  9. Nisarg Prajapati Post author

    I have migraine symptoms and I am most of the time cured with disprine tablates available in India

    Reply
  10. David Stoja Post author

    I suffer from small headache almost every day but I solved it. I've started to supplement magnesium bisglycinate and headache was gone. So guys.. your body can miss some minerals.

    Reply
  11. maxxykat Post author

    Migraines aren't only on one of the head. I get them on both sometimes at the same time. I hate them though and even with botox, i still get multiple migraines a week.

    Reply
  12. Miss Scarlett Post author

    1:29 I've had a terrible sinus infection that gave me massive headaches that didn't go away with regular pain meds. It was not pleasant. The pain was so incredible and I was so dizzy that I was close to passing out.

    Reply
  13. Dr. Stephen Strange Post author

    Doctor : it's just headache.
    Mom : it's just headache my dear.
    Dad : it's just headache.

    Google : you'll die..

    Reply
  14. Karen Ferguson Post author

    Doctors actually do still use drills and holes in the head to relieve headaches for those with a bad head injury or with hydrocephalus which is an excessive amount of fluid in the brain (like me) but they will usually also implant a pressure relief valve (shunt) to allow cerebral spinal fluid to drain when the pressure gets too high.

    Reply
  15. Sebastian Hernandez Post author

    is it just me or do the characters look like the guy from pink panther that hated pink panther and owned that annoying dog

    Reply
  16. Michael Post author

    The only time i get headaches is from not drinking enough water. I suffered from headaches for about 7 years and it was because i only drank like 1 or 2 cups a day. My pee was super dark and my mom always told me to drink water but i never listened. Now i drink like 10 tall cups a day and my headaches are cured. I also dont get muscle cramps or a dry mouth. I think a lot of people underestimate how much water they actually need. Im telling you now, drink water!

    Reply
  17. Leslie Corrin Post author

    Ive got a terrible headache right now. Laying in bed with Vick’s vapor rub on my forehead and some ibuprofen 😖😩

    Reply
  18. Hassan Ali Khan Post author

    Video Caption: What causes headaches?
    Narrator: We are still unsure. do you viewers have any idea?

    Reply
  19. Nicole Leitao Post author

    Eating. If I don’t have a filling breakfast or if I don’t have breakfast at all I’ll get a bad headache and even if I eat after the headache starts it’ll probably last the rest of the day. I used to have really bad headaches every day and I was really confused and I FINALLY found what it was after like a year

    Reply
  20. Ann Miller Post author

    My migraines are caused by arrested hydrocephlaus! Which occur for many different reasons! I have migraines almost every other day!

    Reply
  21. lemans 350 Post author

    Kid, mommy mommy daddy just threw up!
    Mom, o my God what should I do?
    Kid, give me a spoon, jr.s getting all the big pieces.

    Reply
  22. 1ssaTrap Post author

    Me: Trying to figure out why my head feels pregnant
    TED-Ed video: You see these bright flashing colors on the screen??

    Reply
  23. Caleb Gonsalves Post author

    I have headaches that feel like a pulse pain. But at the top-front region. The left region to be specific. It is not that bad however they last the entire day. By 8:00-9:00 PM I get crazy with the pain. It feels like a lot painful than what it used to feel when it first began.

    I have none but three remedies.

    1. Taking a good 3-6 hour nap

    2. Waiting until the pain is unbearable and puke whatever went inside my stomach. Everything. (Including breakfast, medication etc.)

    3. Have some pharmaceutical drugs.

    Reply
  24. Callie S Post author

    wild they didnt mention the fact that trepanation worked and had a higher survival rate than you'd think

    Reply
  25. Sædith SFCK Post author

    i've heard of great results through the use of low doses of psilocybin mushrooms (magic mushrooms) for cluster headaches and migraines, but until then if it gets bad enough – here in Australia we can buy prochlorperazine (Stematil/Compro) over the counter or get metoclopramide (Maxolon) with prescription 🙂

    Reply
  26. Pando Pa Post author

    I have really bad migraines sometimes on only one side of my eye, sometimes the right and sometimes the left. It comes after I start seeing a crescent pattern in the centre of my eye, preventing vision near the edges and start expanding until I can't see it. Followed by the intense pain and nausea. Usually, it ends shortly after I vomit the food/drinks I ate/drank.

    Reply

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