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What’s Causing Your Headache?

From medications to sleep patterns and even the weather, a number of surprising factors can trigger pain in your head

Graphic depicting a man and woman both suffering from headaches with a background of a water bottle and medications.

Sarah Peng/AARP

Those who suffer headaches know well how debilitating an attack can be, often negatively affecting your sleep, work and home life. What’s surprising to many is that there are different types of headaches, each with its own cause and possible solution.

Some factors — the weather or health issues such as menopause — are out of our control. But some can be managed, including drinking your coffee at the same time every day or upping your water intake.

Any headaches accompanied by weakness, vision loss, balance problems or slurred speech require immediate physician care. Sudden pain that feels like the worst headache of your life — also described as a thunderclap — is a red flag that can signal an aneurysm.  Call 911.

Explore your symptoms

Navigate through our interactive symptom tree below to nail down the true cause of your pain and get expert advice on how to relieve it. Simply click on “yes” or “no” beneath each question to travel to the next potential headache trigger.

Question 1 Is it a workday?

Sarah Peng, AARP