Headache on one side of Head can mean different things, with pain ranging in intensity from dull, throbbing to intense and aching. Each sort and duration of pain indicating towards a different cause, underlying the headache accompanied by some other associated symptoms.
Given below are 17 possible conditions that can cause headache on one side of head.
- Vestibular Migraine.
- Cluster Headache.
- Tension Headache.
- Occipital Neuralgia.
- Trigeminal Neuralgia.
- Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalgias.
- Giant cell Arteritis.
- Cervicogenic Headache.
- Arthritis Headache.
- Paroxysmal Hemicrania.
- TMJ disorders.
- SUNCT Syndrome.
- Brain tumor.
Migraine is felt as severe, throbbing pain, lasting from a few hours to a few days. Most common location of a Migraine is Headache on one side of Head.
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Photophobia and phonophobia.
Other symptoms associated particularly with migraines with Auras are:
- Flashes of light waves.
- Temporary loss of visual field.
- Silvery, zigzag lines.
Overreacted Nerve cells send out signals to Trigeminal nerve that causes the release of certain neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters release Vasodilators that cause inflammation and sensation of pain in the head.
- For pain relief: over the counter analgesics.
- For nausea: Anti-emetics.
- For severe attacks: Sumatriptan and Excedrin.
2- Vestibular Migraine
An episode of Vestibular Migraine can consist of Vestibular symptoms alone, such as Vertigo, Nausea, and Vomiting, without any headache and sometimes with headache on one side of head.
The major symptom of Vestibular Migraine is a spontaneous episode of Vertigo. Other associated symptoms are:
- Motion sickness associated with the movement of the head
- Dizziness by looking at moving objects
- Nausea and vomiting caused by constant dizziness.
- A throbbing Headache on one side of head
- Photophobia and Phonophobia
- Visual auras
Release of excess Neurotransmitters can be one cause.
- An over-the-counter analgesic for pain relief if the headache is present
- Vestibular suppressant
- Tricyclic antidepressants
3- Cluster headache
Cluster headache has a cyclic pattern of repetition. Headache on one side of Head and front are the most common locations of pain.
- Watery or swollen eyes.
- Nasal congestion and discharge.
- Pressure in the head behind eyes.
The presence of abnormal hypothalamic activity, is one suggested cause of Headache on one side of Head in cluster headaches.
- Subcutaneous injection of sumatriptan.
- Inhalation of 100% oxygen.
- Lithium therapy for the management of chronic attacks.
4- Tension headache
Pain in tension headache is felt like a band around the head that is increasing in pressure with the pain originating from occiput. Some people have also reported a Headache on one side of Head.
- Sense of growing pressure around the head.
- Tenderness over the skull vault.
- Pressure behind the eyes.
These are mostly caused due to:
- Over the counter painkillers: Aspirin, Acetaminophen.
- Muscle relaxant: Naproxen.
4- Occipital Neuralgia
Headache on one side of Head and back of head and neck is electric-shock like in character. The pain is usually located on the affected side of the head (where occipital nerves are inflamed) in Occipital Neuralgia.
- Burning and throbbing pain.
- Tenderness at the scalp.
There can be numerous conditions that may lead to inflammation of the occipital nerve. Some of which involve:
- A pinched nerve.
- Trauma or injury.
- Bad posture.
- Herniated disc, exerting pressure on the occipital nerve.
- Muscle relaxants and Anti-inflammatory medicines can help relieve the tension in the muscles.
- Steroid injections around the nerve can help with the pain.
- Surgical methods involve surgical decompression of the greater occipital nerve.
6- Trigeminal Neuralgia
Trigeminal Neuralgia is a chronic condition that causes excruciating pain in the lower part of the face and sometimes Headache on one side of Head.
- Excruciating pain along with constant itching and tingling.
- Pain with one specific focus.
- With the passage of time, the frequency of attacks increases.
Trigeminal Neuralgia is typically caused by irritation and compression of Trigeminal nerve most commonly due to malformed blood vessels, exerting pressure on the nerve.
- Anticonvulsants: topiramate, phenytoin
- Tricyclic antidepressants: amitriptyline.
- Rhizotomy: a surgical procedure that involves damaging nerve fibers to block the pain sensations.
7- Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalgias
Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalgias include a number of headache conditions such as Clusters, Hemicranias, and Unilateral Neuralgiform headache attacks. All three of these headache conditions present with Headache on one side of head with variation in their associated symptoms depending on the type of headache experienced. A proper diagnosis is made by the physician after taking a detailed history of symptoms and their response to certain medications.
8- Giant cell arteritis
This is an inflammatory condition of blood vessels, located on the temples. A complication of giant cell arteritis is a Headache on one side of Head, scalp tenderness, and pain in forehead and occipital region.
- Headache on one side of Head involving the forehead, temporal, and occipital regions.
- Flu-like symptoms.
- Drastic weight loss.
To relieve the headache, underlying condition that is giant cell arteritis should be managed.
9- Cervicogenic Headache
Headache on one side of Head can be due to a pinched nerve at the base of your skull. This is better known as a Cervicogenic Headache.
- Neck stiffness
- Pain in the back of head, on one side of the head and face.
- Headache associated with certain neck positions and postures.
- Pain around eyes.
The pain felt is basically due to a pinched nerve in the neck region that supplies the areas affected by it. This can be due to a herniated disc, bad posture or any other problem arising in the neck.
Over the counter analgesics: ibuprofen, acetaminophen.
Muscle relaxant: to ease the taught muscles
Anti-inflammatory drugs: NSAIDs.
10- Arthritis Headache
Two major forms of Arthritis namely; Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis are known to have caused Headache at the back of head which is more severe on one side of head, by causing degenerative changes in the vertebral joints and affecting nerves passing through.
- Severe pain at the back of head and neck
- Neck stiffness
- Inflamed, stiff, and swollen joints especially in the morning
- Neurological signs if a nerve is involved
Arthritis Headache can be caused due to Rheumatoid Arthritis and Osteoarthritis. Rheumatoid Arthritis is an autoimmune disorder in which the body attacks its own joints, causing inflammation and a pinched nerve specifically in cervical region that leads to headache on one side of head. Osteoarthritis forms bony spurs that makes joints immobile and any sort of friction leads to severe headache.
- Anti-inflammatory medicine such as NSAIDs can be used to lower the inflammation.
- Acetaminophen can be used to get relief from acute Headaches.
- DMARDs are given as prescription medication for Arthritis.
- Physiotherapy is required if a nerve is involved and neurological symptoms present.
11- Paroxysmal Hemicrania
Paroxysmal Hemicrania is a rare headache disorder that belongs to the TACs (Trigeminal Autonomic Neuralgia) group of disorders and includes sudden onset of debilitating headache on one side of the head that is short in duration but re-occurs, in some cases, several times a day.
- Unilateral pain in the head
- Headache is throbbing in character
- Resembles a cluster headache
- Neurological symptoms on the opposite side of the body
- Pain is triggered by movement
- Responsive to indomethacin
There is no known cause of Paroxysmal Hemicrania but according to some case studies, here are a list of possible causes
- Traumatic injury to your neck or head
- Arteriovenous malformation
- Pituitary gland tumor
- Paroxysmal Hemicrania responds very well to indomethacin, an NSAID.
- Most people reported with complete relief without any sort of treatment.
12- TMJ disorder
Certain health conditions or trauma may cause a problem in your Temporomandibular joint that connects your skull with the mandible. One complication of TMJ disorder is a Headache on one side of Head.
- Dull, tightening pain in half head.
- Lockjaw symptoms.
- Stiffness and soreness of jaw muscles.
- Earache and tinnitus.
There can be a number of causes for problem in TMJ:
- Arthritis; osteoarthritis, gouty arthritis.
- Dislocation of the disc in the joint.
- Certain connective tissue disorders might also have an impact on TMJ.
Most of the time complementary approaches help.
- Jaw exercises and massages.
- Icing the jaw.
- Oral splints or mouth guards.
13- SUNCT Syndrome
Short-lasting Unilateral Neuralgiform headache attacks with Conjunctival injection and Tearing (SUNCT) is a primary headache syndrome. The headache has characteristic unilateral pain and associated Ipsilateral Autonomic symptoms i.e. Conjunctival Tearing.
- Headache on one side of head
- Ipsilateral Autonomic Symptoms in areas supplied by the division of the Trigeminal nerve.
- Conjunctival Tearing
- Migraine like symptoms
- Reduced sensations and Numbness on the Ipsilateral side
There are several times that SUNCT is idiopathic and is included in Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalgias. However other reasons can be:
- Intracranial lesions compressing the nerve roots.
- Cerebellopontine Arteriovenous Malformation
- Autonomic symptoms may present because of the central disinhibition of the Autonomic reflex of the Trigeminal nerve by the hypothalamus.
- There is no definitive treatment for SUNCT Syndrome but for an acute attack, Intravenous Lidocaine can help decrease the frequency.
- Botulinum Toxin around the symptomatic areas
- Nerve block at Gasserian ganglion or first division of Trigeminal nerve can provide temporary or permanent relief.
- Hypothalamic stimulation
A concussion is a mild brain injury that affects the normal functioning of your brain. This is mostly caused due to trauma and is characterized by sharp, stabbing Headache on one side of Head.
- Sharp, stabbing pain.
- Loss of memory.
- Poor coordination.
Trauma or a blow to the brain may cause an injury and disrupt the signal transmission in the brain.
- In most cases, the treatment is entirely dependent on the symptoms of the patient.
- Anticonvulsants, antidepressants, and antiepileptics are usually the drugs of choice.
- In the case of hemorrhage, surgery needs to be done.
15- Acute Glaucoma
Acute Glaucoma is an ocular condition that arises due to hypertension.
- Eye Pain.
- Headache on one side of head (affected side)
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Blurry or hazy vision.
- Rapid vision loss.
- Redness in the conjunctiva (white part of the eye).
Sudden blockage of the drainage system of the eyes (canal of schlemm) may increase the intraocular pressure within hours. The increased pressure causes pain and severe headaches.
Medicines to drop the pressure in the eyes are given for an acute attack. If the pain and Intraocular pressure do not decrease Iridectomy is done to save the eye.
Abrupt onset of a severe headache may indicate stroke, more commonly, an ischemic stroke.
- Pain has one point of focus.
- Numbness on one side of the body.
- Loss of balance and coordination.
- Blurred vision and slurred speech.
An ischemic stroke generally occurs when the blood flow towards the brain is disrupted causing the death of brain cells. This can be due to hemorrhages, thrombus formation, or embolism.
Headache due to stroke is a medical emergency that needs immediate medical attention. Your physician would try and manage your symptoms that can be hypertension, heart diseases, diabetes, or even a trauma to cause hemorrhage.
17- Brain tumor
Sometimes a brain tumor enlarges to such a size that it starts compressing on nerves and vessels around it, resulting in recurrent headaches. Headache on one side of Head in case of a brain tumor is usually different than other headache types. This headache can change with respect to your position, may last for days or weeks at a stretch, might wake you up at night due to pain or you might wake up every morning with a headache even after you’ve had a good night’s sleep.
These are 12 possible causes of Headache on one side of Head:
6-Giant cell Arteritis.
Giant cell arteritis can complicate and involve temporal arteries and cause severe headaches localized to one side, particularly. Weight loss accompanied by loss of appetite are it’s imp symptoms.
Abrupt onset of a severe headache may indicate a stroke, more commonly, an ischemic stroke. Other than that:
Pain has one point of focus.
Numbness on one side of the body.
Loss of balance and coordination.
Blurred vision and slurred speech
Headache on one side of Head in case of a brain tumor is usually different than other headaches.
It can change with respect to your position.
May last for days or weeks at a stretch.
Might wake you up at night due to pain.
Might wake you up every morning with a headache even after you’ve had a good night’s sleep.