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Cough headaches are an unusual type of headache triggered by coughing and other types of straining — such as from sneezing, blowing your nose, laughing, crying, singing, bending over or having a bowel movement.
Doctors divide cough headaches into two categories. Primary cough headaches are usually harmless, occur in limited episodes and eventually improve on their own. Secondary cough headaches are more serious, as they can be caused by problems within the brain. Treatment of secondary cough headaches may require surgery.
Secondary cough headaches often have symptoms similar to those of primary cough headaches, though you may experience:
Consult your doctor if you experience sudden headaches after coughing — especially if the headaches are frequent or severe or you have any other troubling signs or symptoms, such as imbalance or blurred or double vision.
The cause of primary cough headaches is unknown.
Secondary cough headaches may be caused by:
A defect in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance. This can occur when a portion of the brain is forced through the opening at the base of the skull (foramen magnum), where only the spinal cord is supposed to be.
Some of these types of defects are called Chiari malformations.
Risk factors for primary cough headaches include:
Risk factors for secondary cough headaches include:
Preventing the actions that trigger your cough headaches — whether that’s coughing, sneezing or straining on the toilet — may help reduce the number of headaches you experience. Some preventive measures may include:
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