What Is a Throbbing Headache?
A throbbing headache is a head pain pulsating in a rhythm of the heart.
Causes of Throbbing Headache
SUDDEN, NEWLY APPEARING Throbbing Headache
- Flu or other infection
- Allergic reaction
- Tooth abscess
- Caffeine withdrawal
- Avelox (antibiotic), bactrim, chlorpropamide, diltiazem (and other calcium-chanel blockers), disulfiram-alcohol reaction, epinefrine, glipizide, isosorbide, Mirena (intrauterine contraceptive device), moclobemide, nitrates (nitroglycerin and isosorbide mono- and di-nitrate), omeprazol, vasopressin, vitamin A overdose
- Medication withdrawal: ergotamine (Cafergot), amphetamine, methysergide
- Spoiled fish (scombroid poisoning) causing throbbing headache and flushing (3)
- Carbon monoxide (CO) from faulty heaters, gas-powered cleaning machines…: throbbing frontal headache, tiredness, confusion, irritability (4)
- Toxic metals: arsenic, copper, lead
- Carbon tetrachloride
- Cleaning products, solvents, pesticides
- Dynamite (nitroglycerin)
- Heat stroke: high body temperature, red, hot, dry skin, but no sweating, rapid pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, unconsciousness
- Lumbar puncture, contrast imaging of vessels (angiography)
- Hypnic headache wakening you up and lasting for up to 15 minutes
- High altitude (mountain) sickness
- Dissection or thrombosis of carotid, vertebral or basilar artery (1)
- Arteriovenous malformation (AVM) in the brain
- Preeclampsia and eclampsia: high blood pressure and seizures during pregnancy or delivery
- High blood pressure can, rarely, when suddenly increased, cause throbbing pain in temples or in the back of the head
EPISODIC Throbbing Headache
- Migraine, triggered by strong scents, monosodium glutamate – MSG (in soy sauce in Chinese restaurants), sodium nitrite (hot dog headache), red wine, noises, stress…Symptoms include throbbing one-sided headache, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light.
- Sleep apnea – a sleep disorder with throbbing morning headache (2)
- Throbbing headache after seizures
- Decreased serotonin levels in the blood
- Refractive errors
- Basilar artery migraine, triggered by menstruation in young obese females.
- Cluster headache. Attacks of intense, throbbing one-sided headache, lasting for several minutes and repeating once or more times in a day, several days or weeks in a row.
- Short-lasting, Unilateral, Neuralgiform headache attacks with Conjunctival injection and Tearing (SUNCT) – brief recurrent bursts of throbbing head pain, usually one sided, around the eye or temple, watery, reddish eyes, and runny nose.
CONSTANT Throbbing Headache
- Iron deficiency anemia
- Temporal arteritis – an inflammation of the temporal artery usually causes severe, throbbing pain and tenderness on one side of the head, low grade fever
- Carotidynia – inflammation of the carotid artery. Throbbing pain and tenderness on one side of the neck and head
- Structural abnormalities in the head or neck, like Chiari malformation or syringomyelia
- New Daily Persistent Headache (NDPH) without a known cause
- Headache Types
- Headache Causes and Symptoms
- Headache in the Back of the Head
- Headache, Nausea and Vomiting
- Head Pain Causes
- Sudden Severe Headache
- Can Allergy Cause Headache?
- Dissection of the carotid artery (emedicine.medscape.com)
- Sleep apnea and throbbing headache (drtmjsleepapnea.com)
- Scombroid fish poisoning, throbbing headache and flushing (picture) (dermatology.cdlib.org)
- Substances related headache (imigraine.net)
Article reviewed by Dr. Greg. Last updated on April 9, 2010