Headaches

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Headaches

Headaches are often cause for patients to seek medical advice early on and can cause mental and physical torture to the extent that the victim may be unable to go about daily activities or work efficiently. Headaches have many causes and at time can be fatal. Headaches can be categorized into three types as follows:

  • Primary Headache - These are caused by abnormalities in brain and nervous system that often cannot be diagnosed. Examples of Primary Headaches include: Migraine Headache, Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalalgias (TCAs)
  • Secondary Headache - These are caused by internal and external factors such as tumors, brain hemorrhaging, brain injury, meningitis, headaches caused by problems with eyesight, and headaches as a result of a dental condition.
  • Headaches and facial pain from other causes

Symptoms will vary according to type of Headache:

 

Migraine 

Migraines are a neurological disease characterized by recurrent moderate to severe headaches often in association with a number of autonomic nervous system symptoms. Typically the headache affects one half of the head, is pulsating in nature, and lasts from 2 to 72 hours. Associated symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. The pain is generally made worse by physical activity such as walking. There may also be pain around the scalp and around the eyes.

Tension Headache

A tension-type headache is the most common type of headache and the one we think of as a normal, everyday headache. It may feel like a constant ache that affects both sides of the head. You may also feel the neck muscles tighten and a feeling of pressure behind the eyes. A tension headache normally won't be severe enough to prevent you doing everyday activities. It usually lasts for 30 minutes to several hours, though it can last for several days and may cause sensitivity to light and sound.

Cluster Headache

Cluster headache belongs to a group of primary headache disorders, classified as the trigeminal autonomic cephalalgias or (TACs). Cluster headaches are more prevalent in men than women and are characterized by recurrent, severe headaches on one side of the head, typically around the eye. There are often accompanying autonomic symptoms during the headache such as eyes watering, nasal congestion and swelling around the eye, typically confined to the side of the head. Without treatment it may last from 15-180 minutes (average 1 hour). Other symptoms include: a burning sensation, a stabbing sharp pain, and feeling as if the eyes are about to pop out.

A distinct characteristic of this headache is that attacks occur at specific times in waves (cluster), such as during a specific month annually and may last for days or up to weeks. Following the episode there may be no headaches until the same month the following year.

Symptoms that indicate need for medical attention

  • Seconds or minutes of severe throbbing pain
  • Headaches associated with neurological conditions such as depression, confusion, poor memory, weakness in the arm and legs, abnormal eyesight, and seizures
  • Headaches caused by other organ systems such as fever, weight loss, cold sweats, and shivers
  • Daily headaches that may gradually worsen both in intensity and regularity
  • Headaches that occur from coughing/sneezing, exercising, or sudden changes in direction
  • Headaches occurring in people aged over 40, cancer patients, individuals with immune deficiencies, or from receiving allergy medication\
  • Headaches occurring in pregnant women, after birth, or from taking contraceptive pills
  • Headaches that occur from obesity (BMI  ≥ 30)