Salamat Dok: What causes headaches?

By Dr. Gerald Belandres, Salamat Dok Contributor

Posted at Mar 04 2014 05:02 PM | Updated as of Mar 30 2014 11:39 PM

Headaches are quite literally a pain to live with. They may seem minor, but can be so distracting as to prevent people from doing even simple tasks.

A headache is described as throbbing pain that is caused by disturbances of the pain-sensitive structures around the brain. It can be characterized based on intensity, location, and timing.

Headaches are classified into primary and secondary headaches. Primary headaches can be also called vascular headaches.

Types of headaches

• Tension Headache – The most common type of primary headache. This occurs more commonly among women than men. Pain begins in the back of the head and upper neck and is described as a band-like tightness or pressure. May be triggered by stress, neck strain, missed meals, depression, anxiety or lack of sleep. This headache is characterized to be mild to moderate pain on both sides of the head that last from 30 minutes to an entire week. Also known as myogenic headaches. These are caused by the tightening or tensing of facial and neck muscles. These account for nearly 90% of all headaches. Pain reliever and muscle relaxant can be given to ease it.

• Migraine headache – The second most common type of primary headache. This affects three times more women than men. It affects only one side of the head and typically lasts from four to 72 hours if untreated. This may be accompanied with nausea, vomiting, or increased sensitivity to light or sound.

• Cluster Headache – Rare but affects more men than women. This affects one side of the head and is common in smokers. May be accompanied by tearing or redness of the eye or a droopy eyelid on the affected side of the head and a runny or stuffy nose. The pain develops quickly without warning and can reach maximum intensity within minutes and last for 15 minutes to three hours but it subsides rapidly. This type is associated with agitation.

• Vascular headaches can be managed with over the counter pain medications like Paracetamol, Mefenamic Acid or Ibuprofen. It depends on its severity and pain scale. For alternative therapies: meditation, yoga, relaxation training, cognitive behavioral therapy, biofeedback, lifestyle modification or massage.

Secondary headaches are due to an underlying structural problem in the head or neck.

• Traction headaches - This type is caused by organic diseases involving structures in the head. These are usually caused by pulling or stretching pain-sensitive parts of the head, as may occur during eyestrain and eye muscles are tensed. Headaches can result from intracranial mass lesions such as metastatic tumors, abscess, or hematoma. This may cause increase intracranial pressure that causes the headache. Detection of any brain pathology, cranial CT scan or MRI may be advised.

• Inflammatory headaches – This variety of headaches has underlying cause and symptoms of other disorders, including sinusitis, meningitis, or stroke.

We can observe if the headache can be tolerable or not. Consult your doctor if it persists. Pain relievers should just be taken as needed for the symptom. Stress is the most common triggering factor. Learn to relax and get rid of it is possible. Think of positive thoughts to start a day. – Multimedia Producer: Yam dela Cruz

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