Sharp Pain on Left Side of Head Comes and Goes – The Causes

Pain caused by headaches can affect either side of the head or even the left or right. The annoyance can manifest itself slowly or suddenly, it can be sharp or dull and throbbing. Sometimes the pain radiates to the neck, teeth or behind the eyes. Usually, the common headache, which is unilateral or bilateral, disappears within a few hours and is not a cause for concern. But if the pain is intense and does not go away it could be a sign of something more serious.

The causes of left-sided headaches vary depending on several factors mainly related to lifestyle, ranging from simply skipping meals to the abuse of certain medications.


Factors related to lifestyle

Among the causes related to an unhealthy lifestyle we find:


Beer, wine, and other alcoholic beverages contain ethanol, a chemical that can cause headaches on the left or right side or on both sides due to vasodilation.

Skip meals

To work optimally, the brain needs sugars (glucose) from food. When not eaten, the blood sugar level decreases (hypoglycemia), causing headaches, not necessarily just to the left side.

Food triggers

Some foods are known to cause headaches, especially those that contain preservatives. In addition to pre-packaged products rich in chemical additives, other foods can trigger headaches such as aged cheeses, red wine, processed meats such as cured meats, sausages, and bacon.


It is essential to drink regularly throughout the day. Water is the basis of life and if it is missing all the organs of the body fatigue more easily and fail to function properly. The body gets tired more easily. Some research states that the lack of fluids is closely connected to the onset of headaches


When under stress, the body releases chemicals that tension the muscles and modify blood flow, both of which can cause headaches.

Read: Stress Headaches

Lack of sleep

Insomnia can trigger a headache. Pain due to headaches, in turn, can make it more difficult to sleep at night. Those suffering from sleep disorders, such as obstructive sleep apnea, are more likely to have a headache, partly because their sleep is interrupted.

Infections and allergies

Headaches to the left or right side are often a symptom of respiratory infections such as colds or flu. Fever and paranasal sinus disorders can also cause headaches. Allergies cause headaches through the congestion of the breasts, leading to localized pain mainly in the areas behind the forehead and cheekbones.

Inflammations and serious infections such as encephalitis and meningitis cause more intense headaches. These diseases also produce symptoms such as convulsions, high fever, and stiff neck.

Drug abuse (a rebound headache)

Medications to relieve headaches can in some cases cause more headaches, especially if you use them more than two or three days a week. Drug abuse headaches are known as rebound headaches.

These types of headaches can affect only one side of the head, the left or right, or the whole head. They occur almost every day and the pain starts when you wake up in the morning.

Medications that can cause overuse headaches include: aspirin; acetaminophen or paracetamol (Tylenol); ibuprofen; naproxen; drugs that combine aspirin, paracetamol, and caffeine (for example Excedrin); triptans (such as Sumatriptan); ergotamine (as Cafergot), pain medication such as oxycodone (Oxycontin), tramadol (Ultram) and hydrocodone (Vicodin).

Neurological causes of a left-sided headache

Some nerve damage can cause headaches on the left or right side, or even on both sides at the same time.

Occipital neuralgia

The occipital nerves are located in the area between the upper part of the spinal cord and the base of the skull. The irritation or damage to these nerves can cause headaches to the left side, but first, there is an intense and excruciating pain in the back of the head or at the base of the skull. Typically, the pain lasts from a few seconds to several minutes.

Giant cell arteritis

Also called temporal or gigantocellular arteritis, this condition is caused by the inflammation of the blood vessels, in particular of the temporal arteries along the side of the head. Symptoms may include single-sided, right or left-side headaches, or both sides, and jaw, shoulder and hip pain, as well as visual disturbances.

Trigeminal neuralgia

This neuropathy affects the trigeminal nerve, whose main task is to provide sensitivity to the face, head, meninges, teeth, and tongue. Trigeminal neuralgia causes severe sudden pain on the face, which can be circumscribed in limited areas, such as the eyes, forehead, mouth, nose, scalp, teeth and other parts of the face.

Other causes of a headache in the left side

Other causes of a headache on the left side of the head may be as follows.

Narrow headgear

Wearing a helmet that is smaller than your own or a too tight head protection can put pressure on one or both sides of your head, causing pain to the left or right side, or to the whole head.

Cerebral concussion

A severe blow to the head can cause this type of head injury. In general, concussions lead to symptoms such as headaches, confusion, lethargy, nausea, and vomiting.


This eye disease is mainly caused by the increase in pressure inside the eye and, in severe cases, can lead to blindness. In addition to eye pain and blurred vision, among its most common symptoms, we also find severe headaches.


Normally hypertension does not cause symptoms, but some people may complain of headaches, especially during the early hours of the day.


Blood clots can clog the blood vessels that carry blood to the brain, stopping the flow and causing the stroke. Bleeding inside the brain can also cause a stroke. A sudden, severe headache can be a warning sign of a stroke.

Cerebral tumor

A tumor can cause an intense, sudden headache, along with other symptoms such as lowering of vision, difficulty in speech, confusion, difficulty walking and convulsions.

When to contact the doctor

Usually, headaches are not serious and often go away on their own or can be treated safely at home. But sometimes headaches can signal a more serious problem. You should call your doctor or go to the emergency room if:

  • A headache causes a very strong pain, never felt before.
  • There is a change in the pattern of diffusion or frequency of one’s headaches.
  • A headache leads to waking up during the night.
  • A headache started after a headshot.

You should consult your doctor even if you experience one or more of the following symptoms along with a headache: confusion, fever, stiff neck, lowered vision, double vision (diplopia), pain that increases when you make a movement or a cough, numbness, weakness, pain, and redness of the eyes, loss of knowledge.

How to find a quick relief from headaches

Here is a list of things you can do at home to relieve headaches quickly:

  • Apply a warm or fresh compress to the head and/or neck.
  • Relax: soak in a hot bath, practice deep breathing and/or listen to calming music.
  • Take a nap.
  • Eat something if your blood glucose levels are low.
  • Take an over-the-counter painkiller such as aspirin, ibuprofen or paracetamol.

In conclusion, there are several types of headaches that cause pain only on the left or right side. It is usually possible to alleviate these headaches with rest, with a change in lifestyle or with over-the-counter medications. Contact your doctor for severe or debilitating headaches, which compromise your quality of life.

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