Headaches come in all shapes and forms, with frontal headaches or headaches across the forehead being some of the most common. Pain is often felt across the forehead and is called a frontal headache. It may be isolated to one spot or spread across the entirety of the forehead. It can also spread down to the entire face, causing complete debilitation until the headache has resolved.
Frontal headaches can be associated with another type of headache referred to as a temporal headache, which affects the sides of the skull. While this is usually short lived, it can recur several times. Frontal headaches could persist for days or weeks, but this is not very common.
Headaches can be caused by many things, so it is important to assess frontal headaches along with other symptoms. While most cases of a frontal headache are not serious, the intensity of pain is a good indicator of whether an underlying condition is a cause.
Common causes for frontal headache pain
Eye strain: Constantly looking at bright lights or overuse of the eyes is a common problem leading to eye strain, which can result in a frontal headache or a headache across the forehead. Most people are staring at computer screens for extended periods of time at work only to come home and stare at more screens. This adds up to excessively long periods of time that the eyeballs are staring at brightly lit screens.
Sinuses: The sinus cavity is located on the anterior portion of the skull. It is composed of large hollow spaces filled with air located behind the nose in the middle of the face. When this area becomes infected or congested, it can lead to a pressing type of pain and the development of a headache.
Muscle strain: A cause of acute headaches that occur suddenly. Muscle spasms or tightness of the muscle of the forehead may cause pain that can radiate outward, leading to a headache. Headaches due to muscle strains are also known as tension headaches and present as a band-like pain across the forehead. Pain may worsen during the day and ease after getting some rest. Muscle strains can be caused by stress, tiredness, poor posture, or even dehydration.
Migraine: A medical condition that is characterized by frequent headaches, with headaches across the forehead being a possible presentation. There are several reasons why a person may experience a migraine headache, such as changes in the levels of hormones in the brain or other environmental factors. Frontal headaches associated with migraines can be accompanied by other symptoms such as blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, or dizziness.
Other causes of a frontal headache include:
- Jaw or neck pain
- Insomnia or other sleep disorders
- Certain foods, such as meats with nitrates
- Alcohol, especially red wine
- Depression and anxiety
- Weather changes
Symptoms associated with a frontal headache
A frontal headache will often be accompanied by additional signs and symptoms of the underlying condition. For example, if a patient has a sinusitis infection, additional nasal symptoms will often be present as well. It is important to remember that a headache is not a disease, but a symptom. The following are some of the most common associated symptoms that accompany a frontal headache:
- Eye redness, burning and tearing
- Blurred or double vision
- Nasal congestion
- Runny nose and sneezing
- Nasal tone to the voice
- Face pain, nose pain, cheek pain, jaw pain
- Nausea and sometimes vomiting
When to seek help for frontal headaches
While not all cases of frontal headaches will require the aid of a trained medical professional, it may be worth seeing one if you’re experiencing severe pain. Having headaches for long periods of time is a cause for concern and should be looked at by a doctor.
If you get a sudden and severe headache that is new put persistent, it is recommended to go to the emergency department right away. These are called secondary headaches and may be the result of a recent head injury you sustained. If you develop a severe headache suddenly and are over 50 years old, going to see a doctor is highly recommended.
You should also see a doctor if you have a headache and any of the following:
- A stiff neck
- Double vision
- Loss of consciousness
- Shortness of breath
How to diagnose a frontal headache
Much of the diagnosis of a frontal headache will come from the patient themselves as they describe the types of pain experienced and the frequency of onset. Often times, this will provide additional clues to the doctor that hint at a possible underlying cause for your particular case of frontal headache. Performing additional tests, such as an MRI or CT scan, will help identify brain structures and rule out possible causes, hopefully leading to the real cause.
How to get a frontal headache treated
Pain experienced in the frontal portion of the head can be quite debilitating. Depending on your specific underlying cause, treatment options vary. Once a doctor has performed all the necessary testing to rule out the most life-threatening causes, they will prescribe commonly used headache medication. These include:
- Pain-relieving drugs
- Muscle relaxants
- Tricyclic antidepressants
Lifestyle changes will also be recommended. This includes avoiding excessive eyestrain by reducing the number of hours looking at bright screens. If this can’t be achieved, it is recommended to take a break every hour or so for five to 10 minutes at a time to avoid straining the eyes. Headache relieving exercises may also be recommended.
Finding time to relax and reduce stress is also suggested. Avoiding headache triggers is a great way to help reduce episodes. It is advised to establish a daily routine that includes getting regular meals and plenty of sleep.
If you have tried your best to reduce the pain caused by your frontal headache to no avail, seeing your doctor is your best bet.
Related: Types of headaches and causes, symptoms, and prevention chart