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What Causes Headaches on the Right Side?

NEWSLETTER

Medically Reviewed by Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, RN, CRNA on July 7, 2017 Written by Ana Gotter

Causes | Types | Emergency symptoms | Diagnosis | Quick relief | The bottom line

Overview
Headaches can cause a dull throbbing or an intense ache and pain in different areas, including the right side of your scalp, base of your skull,
and your neck, teeth, or eyes.

While headaches can be uncomfortable, theyre unlikely to be brain pain. The brain and skull dont have nerve endings, so they wont cause
pain directly. Instead, a wide range of factors can affect headaches, from lack of sleep to caffeine withdrawal.

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CAUSES

Causes of headaches on the right side


Lifestyle factors
Headaches are most commonly caused from factors like:

stress
fatigue
skipping meals
muscle problems in your neck
medication side effects, such as long-term use of over-the-counter (OTC) pain medicine

Infections and allergies


Sinus infections and allergies can also cause headaches. Headaches resulting from sinus infections are the result of inflammation, which leads
to pressure and pain behind your cheekbones and forehead.

Medication overuse
Excessive use of medication to treat headaches can actually cause headaches. This is the most common secondary headache disorder, and it
affects up to 5 percent of the population. Medication overuse headaches tend to be worst upon awakening.

Neurological causes
Occipital neuralgia: There are two occipital nerves in the spine of your upper neck that run through the muscles to your scalp. Irritation of one
of these nerves can cause shooting, electric, or tingling pain. Often the pain will be on only one side of your head.

Temporal arteritis: This is a condition in which you have inflamed or damaged arteries that supply blood to your head and brain. This pressure
can cause other symptoms such as vision impairment, shoulder or hip pain, jaw pain, and weight loss.

Trigeminal neuralgia: This is a chronic condition that affects the nerve that carries sensation from your face to your brain. The slightest
stimulation on your face may trigger a jolt of pain.

Other causes
More serious causes of headaches that can occur on only one side include:

trauma
aneurysm
tumors, which can be both benign or malignant (cancerous)

Only a doctor can diagnose the cause of your headaches.

TYPES

Types of headaches
There are different types of headaches, each of which has different causes and symptoms. Knowing which type of headache you have can help
your doctor diagnose the cause.

Tension headaches
Tension headaches are the most common type of headache, occurring in about 75 percent of adults.
Did You Know?
While they usually affect both sides, they can also be unilateral, or occurring on only one side of your Tension headaches are
head. the most common type of
headache, affecting about
Feels like: A dull ache or a squeezing pain. Your shoulders and neck can also be affected. 75 percent of adults.

Migraine headaches
Migraines can occur on one or both sides of your head, and can result in light and sound sensitivity, nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, or
paresthesia.

Feels like: A severe throbbing or pulsating sensation.

Before or during a migraine, some people will experience auras, which are most often visual. Auras can have positive or negative symptoms.
Positive symptoms are due to activation of the central nervous system. Examples of positive symptoms include:

vision disturbances like zigzag vision or flashes of light


auditory problems like tinnitus or noises
somatosensory symptoms such as burning or pain
motor abnormalities like jerking or repetitive movements

Negative symptoms are manifested as a loss of function, which includes loss of vision, loss of hearing, or paralysis.

Cluster headaches
Cluster headaches are often painful and involve only one side of your head. You may also experience restlessness, pale or flushed skin,
redness of the affected eye, and a runny nose on the affected side of your face.

Feels like: Intense pain, especially eye pain involving only one eye and radiating to areas of your neck, face, head, and shoulders.

Chronic headaches
Chronic headaches occur 15 or more days a month. They can be tension headaches or chronic migraines. Make an appointment with your
doctor to diagnose the cause, if youre experiencing chronic headaches.

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EMERGENCY SYMPTOMS

When to see a doctor