Headaches can range from a minor annoyance to extremely debilitating. While it’s common to get a headache now and then, frequent or prolonged headaches and headaches coupled with other severe symptoms are nothing to ignore. Earlier this week we reviewed the most common types of primary and secondary headaches. Today we’re exploring the causes of and treatments for headaches.
Causes of Headaches
Primary headaches are caused by some combination of nerves, blood vessels, muscles and chemical activity in the brain. They are often genetic. Many things can trigger a primary headache including exercise, coughing, sex, hunger, exhaustion, brain freeze (a.k.a. eating something extremely cold), stress, caffeine withdrawal and bad posture. Diet is another large cause of primary headaches, especially red wine, aged cheese and processed meats.
Secondary headaches are a symptom of many health problems. Some of these include: dehydration, arterial tears, gas poisoning, concussion, ear infection, blood clot, stroke, hypertension, hangover, encephalitis, meningitis or the flu.
Treatment for Headaches
Knowing the type of headache you have can help determine the cause and best treatment options. Often headaches resolve on their own or can be soothed with over-the-counter medication. If this is not the case for your headache, it’s time to see your doctor for a physical exam. Explain the pain you experience during headaches and any other symptoms you may be having, even if they seem unrelated.
Once your doctor diagnoses your headaches, you may be prescribed stronger medication or your doctor may recommend a change in your diet or lifestyle habits, counseling, stress management or biofeedback techniques. Your doctor may want to do an MRI or CT scan to try to find a cause of your headaches by viewing your brain.
Always see a doctor or call 911 if your headaches are paired with nausea, vomiting, blurry vision, confusion, inability to speak or walk, stiff neck, paralysis, unconsciousness or high fever (above 102 degrees).
Headaches are one of the most common types of physical pain. A headache every once in awhile is normal, especially if you know exactly what caused it like overexerting yourself at the gym or drinking too much red wine. However, it’s important to listen to your body and see your doctor if headache pain becomes more frequent or you are unsure what is causing your headaches. Because secondary headaches can be a symptom of so many health problems, don’t delay in seeking medical advice.
Sources: Everyday Health, Mayo Clinic, WebMD, Health and Medicine Net