Headaches are one of the most common ailments experienced by adults and children alike. This term encompasses almost any kind of pain experienced in the upper skull and brain region.
There is an almost infinite amount of potential causes foe a headache, from a life-threatening brain tumor to a harmless change in the weather. The official medical term for a headache is cephalalgia.
This condition is separated into primary and secondary headaches. Primary headaches are short-lived and occur on their own in response to general stimulus, while secondary headaches are a symptom of another condition or disease.
A migraine is an example of primary headache disorder.
Symptoms of a headache include:
Nausea and vomiting often accompany migraines and cluster headaches, two more serious but not life-threatening forms of this problem. Secondary headaches caused by life-threatening health problems.
Secondary headache symptoms include:
Primary headaches can be caused by stress, red wine, skipped meals, poor posture, certain foods (like processed meats with added nitrates), and changes in – or lack of – sleep. Secondary headaches can be caused by a number of different things, including hangovers, concussions, carbon monoxide poisoning, high blood pressure, acute sinusitis, blood clots, stroke, overuse of pain medicine, toxoplasmosis, panic disorders, meningitis, glaucoma, and influenza (flu).
Other causes of secondary headaches include intracranial hematoma, post-concussion syndrome, pressure from tight headgear, trigeminal neuralgia, pseudotumor cerebri, giant cell arteritis, encephalitis, brain aneurysms, brain arteriovenous malformation, brain tumors, arterial tears, Chiari malformation, and middle ear infections, dental problems, and dehydration.
Secondary headaches will only resolve when the underlying cause is treated.
For primary headaches, most patients only need pain killers to reduce the symptoms until the problem passes on its own.
Chronic primary headaches usually require lifestyle changes to avoid, such as the reduction of stress, elimination of a smoking habit, improvements in your diet, reduction of salt intake, and avoidance of triggers like bright lights and loud noises.
Headaches can be prevented by avoiding common triggers, such as dehydration, sensory overload (exposure to bright lights, loud sounds, or overpowering smells), getting too much – or not enough – sleep (seven to eight hours per night), smoking, skipping meals, and using certain over-the-counter medications. Using some medicines more than twice a week can cause more frequent and more severe headaches. Maintain good posture, drink plenty of water, and manage stress properly to lessen the occurrence of headaches. Getting the right pillow can also mean fewer headaches.
Keeping a headache diary can help you keep track of what your triggers are. In your diary, keep track of what time you wake up and what time you go to bed, what foods you eat, what you drink, what medicine you take, and what type of physical activity you participate in.
Make sure you also jot down when you begin feeling a headache coming on. Write down what time of the day it started and what you did to get rid of it. Track things like the weather and any hormonal changes – like your menstrual cycle. Usually, you’ll begin to see a pattern – headaches may occur on certain days of the week or when you eat certain foods. Take notice so you can determine the exact cause of your headache.