Many individuals can suffer from at least one headache every year. Based on studies, it was discovered the many suffer from chronic headaches. Take note that headaches can cause absences at work which can affect the productivity levels. Majority of headaches are not life-threatening and can be easily managed with basic first aid measures and lifestyle changes.
Depending on the cause, headaches can be minor and could not disrupt your activities. On the other hand, it can be severe that you have to rest at home, thus affecting school or work.
Types of headaches
There are three types of headaches that you should be familiar with.
- Tension headaches – the most common and typically occur among women over the age of 20 years old. It is due to the tightening of the muscles in the scalp and neck that tend to be recurrent and can last for several minutes to days. Contributing factors include stress and poor posture.
- Migraines – considered as a neurological disease due to the activity of the brain chemicals and nerve pathways. It is characterized as a throbbing vascular headache that involves half of the head and often the most severe and complex.
- Cluster headaches – it is a non-throbbing vascular headache in which the pain is severe, penetrating, burning and can last for extended periods up to six weeks. The symptoms occur on one side of the head behind the eye.
Headache symptoms that require immediate medical care
Majority of headaches are not life-threatening. On the other hand, there are cases in which headaches can indicate serious health problems. It is important to consult your doctor right away if a headache develops after a head trauma or accompanied with fever, drowsiness, vomiting, slurred speech, facial numbness, convulsions, confusion or weakness in the legs or arms.
Seek medical attention if there is sudden severe headache and neck stiffness. Any pressure bordering the eyes along with yellowish to greenish nasal discharge as well as sore throat must be checked by your doctor.
How headaches are evaluated
A headache can be a considered as a symptom of certain diseases. The cause of a headache is determined by a physical examination. The examination involves the head, neck and a complete neurological evaluation. The medication history is also vital since the absence of certain medications and foods can lead to rebound headaches. Test that are used to evaluate headaches include CBC, skull X-rays, sinus X-rays and CT scan.
Treatment for headaches
The treatment depends on the cause. Majority of tension headaches can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications such as acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen. Other methods include biofeedback, stress reduction, exercise and avoiding food triggers that can also be used to treat migraines.
The preventive treatment is utilized when headaches occur three or more in a month. Certain medications that decrease the vascular inflammation during migraines are given. Other medications that can prevent migraines include beta blockers, valproic acid, verapamil and amitriptyline.