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Headache Symptoms

Headache Symptoms

What you need to know about
Your Headache Symptoms

Headaches are a pretty common ailment that almost everyone will have at some point in their lives. A headache is characterised by discomfort in the head or face. This can be a pulsating, continuous, sharp, or dull sensation. Medication, stress management, and biofeedback can all help with headaches.

You are not alone if your head throbs. One of the most common types of pain in the world is headaches. In the last year, up to 75% of adults around the world have had a headache.

Headaches are a leading cause of work and school absences. They have an impact on social and family life as well. Constantly battling headaches can make some individuals feel nervous and depressed.

What are the different types of headaches?

There are around 150 different forms of headaches. Primary and secondary headaches are the two types of headaches.

Primary headaches

Headaches that aren’t caused by another medical condition are known as primary headaches. The following items fall into this category:

  • Cluster headaches
  • Migraine
  • New daily persistent headaches (NDPH)
  • Tension headaches

Secondary headaches

Secondary headaches can be caused by a variety of medical conditions, including:

  • Inflammation of the blood arteries of the brain
  • Injury to the head
  • Blood pressure that is too high (hypertension)
  • Infection
  • Medication overuse
  • Congestion in the sinuses
  • Trauma
  • Tumour

Headache Symptoms

Migraines, in particular, have a tendency to run in families. Migraine sufferers are more likely to have at least one parent who also suffers from the condition. In fact, children whose parents suffer from migraines are four times more likely to suffer from them themselves.

Headaches can also be produced by variables that are common in a family’s surroundings, such as:

  • Caffeine, alcohol, fermented foods, chocolate, and cheese are some of the foods or ingredients to avoid.
  • Allergen exposure is a term used to describe the process of becoming exposed to allergens.
  • Tobacco smoke has been passed down from one generation to the next
  • Strong scents from perfumes or home chemicals.

What headache symptoms
require immediate medical Assistance?

If you or your kid is experiencing any of the following headache symptoms, seek medical attention immediately away:

A strong headache that appears out of nowhere.

A headache that is accompanied by neurological signs such as the following:

  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Sudden loss of balance or falling
  • Numbness or tingling
  • Paralysis
  • Speech difficulties
  • Mental confusion
  • Seizures
  • Personality changes/inappropriate behaviour, or
  • Vision changes (blurry vision, double vision, or blind spots)

Fever, shortness of breath, stiff neck, or rash are all symptoms of a headache with a fever.
You wake up in the middle of the night with a headache.

A headache accompanied by extreme nausea and vomiting.

Headaches that develop as a result of a head injury or an accident.

After the age of 55, you may get a new sort of headache.

Headache Symptoms that necessitate consultation with your doctor or a headache specialist

If you or your child are experiencing any of the following symptoms, please contact your health care provider:

  • Three or more headaches each week are considered severe.
  • Headaches that won’t go away and keep getting worse.
  • For your headaches, you’ll need to take a pain reliever every day or virtually every day.
  • To treat headache symptoms, you’ll need more than 2 to 3 doses of over-the-counter drugs every week.
  • Exertion, coughing, bending, or vigorous activity might cause headaches.
  • You have a history of headaches, but your symptoms have recently changed.

Diagnosis

Contact your GP if you get frequent headache symptoms or if they are severe. You should normally begin by consulting your GP, who will begin the diagnostic process. It’s critical to appropriately diagnose headaches so that appropriate treatment can be initiated to help you feel better.

Your GP will perform a physical exam, go over your medical history, and discuss your headache symptoms with you. This discussion is part of a headache assessment. Your provider will ask you about your headache history during the headache evaluation, including:

  • Describe your headaches?
  • What do the headaches feel like?
  • How often do the headaches happen?
  • How long does the headache last each time?
  • How much pain do the headaches cause you?
  • What foods, drinks or events trigger your headaches?
  • How much caffeine do you drink each day?
  • What are your stress levels?
  • What are your sleep habits?
  • Do you have any work issues?

Knowing the following information will help you identify your headache symptoms more accurately:

  • When do your headaches start?
  • How long you have had the headache?
  • Whether there is a single type of headache or multiple types of headaches?
  • How often the headache occurs?
  • What causes the headache, if known (for example, do certain situations, foods, or medications usually trigger the headache?).
  • If physical activity aggravates the headache pain?
  • What events trigger the headache?
  • Is there a family history of headaches?
  • What symptoms, if any, occur between headaches?

Your doctor will also inquire about your work performance, family history, and whether you have a history of drug usage.

Clinical description of headaches

Describe how you feel when you have a headache and what happens when you acquire one, for example:

  • Where the pain is located.
  • What it feels like.
  • How severe the headache pain is, using a scale from 1 (mild) to 10 (severe).
  • If the headache appears suddenly without warning or with accompanying symptoms.
  • What time of day the headache usually occurs.
  • If there is an aura (changes in vision, blind spots, or bright lights) before the headache.
  • What other symptoms or warning signs occur with the headache (weakness, nausea, sensitivity to light or noise, decreased appetite, changes in attitude or behaviour).
  • How long the headache lasts.

History of headache treatments

You should tell your doctor about any previous headache remedies you’ve tried. Tell your GP about the medications you’ve taken in the past and the ones you’re taking now. Don’t be afraid to make a list, bring in the drug bottles, or get a printout from your pharmacist. If you have any past studies or examinations, bring them with you. This could save time and eliminate the need to repeat testing.

Physical and neurological examinations for headaches

Your doctor will conduct physical and neurological examinations once you have completed the medical history portion of the evaluation. The doctor will check for signs and symptoms of an illness that could be the source of the headache. The following are examples of signs and symptoms:

  • Fever
  • Infection
  • High blood pressure
  • Muscle weakness, numbness, or tingling
  • Excessive fatigue, wanting to sleep all of the time
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Balance problems, falling
  • Vision problems (blurry vision, double vision, blind spots)
  • Mental confusion or changes in personality, inappropriate behaviour, speech difficulties
  • Seizures
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea, vomiting

Neurological tests are used to rule out disorders like epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and other cerebrovascular diseases, which can all induce headaches. A central nervous system issue could be to blame for the onset of severe headaches. These are some of them:

  • Tumour
  • Abscess
  • Haemorrhage (bleeding within the brain)
  • Bacterial or viral meningitis (an infection or inflammation of the membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord)
  • Pseudotumor cerebri (increased intracranial pressure)
  • Hydrocephalus (abnormal build-up of fluid in the brain)
  • Infection of the brain
  • Encephalitis (inflammation of the brain)
  • Blood clots
  • Head trauma
  • Sinus blockage or disease
  • Malformation (such as Arnold-Chiari)
  • Injuries
  • Infections, such as Lyme disease
  • Meningitis
  • Aneurysm

Your physician should be able to establish what type of headache symptoms you have based on the results of your headache history, physical examination, and neurological examination, as well as whether or not you have a serious problem and whether or not additional tests are required.

If you can, try to write down how you are feeling when you get a headache. When speaking with your healthcare professional, keeping a journal of your headaches and how they make you feel can be beneficial.

The most crucial element of the diagnosing process is the information you offer about your headaches to your GP. You’ll have a better chance of getting an appropriate diagnosis and a treatment plan that will make you feel better if you provide your doctor with as much information as possible about your headaches.

Scans and additional imaging tests are helpful in ruling out other disorders, but they are not helpful in identifying migraines, cluster headaches, or tension headaches. If your healthcare provider suspects that your headaches are the result of another medical issue, he or she may order a variety of imaging tests.

If your doctor believes your headaches are caused by a problem with your central nervous system, he or she may recommend a CT scan or an MRI. Both of these examinations generate cross-sectional scans of the brain, which can reveal any abnormalities or issues. X-rays of your skull are hardly ever taken. Unless you’ve ever passed out from a headache, an EEG (electroencephalogram) may not be required.

Causes

What causes headaches?

Signals from the brain, blood vessels, and surrounding nerves interact to cause headache discomfort. An unknown mechanism activates certain nerves that impact muscles and blood vessels during a headache. The brain receives pain signals from these nerves.

What causes migraines?

Migraines are still a mystery. Migraines, on the other hand, are thought to be the result of unstable nerve cells overreacting to a variety of circumstances, according to researchers (triggers). Nerve cells transmit electrical impulses to blood arteries, causing chemical changes in the brain. As a result, you’ll be in excruciating pain.

Triggers

Tension headaches and migraines are frequently triggered by the following factors:

  • Use of alcoholic beverages.
  • A change in your eating or sleeping habits.
  • Depression.
  • Emotional stress that results from relationships with family and friends, work, or school.
  • Excessive reliance on medications.
  • Poor posture causes eye, neck, and back discomfort.
  • Lighting.
  • Noise.
  • The weather.

When should I see my Doctor?

The majority of the time, despite their discomfort, headaches symptoms do not constitute a serious hazard. Headaches, on the other hand, can be a sign of a life-threatening ailment. The following are signs that you should seek medical attention right away:

  • Slurred speech or confusion
  • Fever
  • After a head injury, you may experience headaches
  • A severe headache that appears out of nowhere or does not go away
  • Seizures or a loss of consciousness are both possible outcomes
  • Children have a lot of headaches
  • Pain in the ear or eye, or a stiff neck
  • Numbness or weakness

What do headaches feel like?

The headache symptoms differ based on the sort of headache you get.

Tension headaches

The most frequent type of headache is tension headache. Tension headaches are characterised by the following symptoms:

  • Consistent without causing a pulsating sensation.
  • Mild to moderate discomfort.
  • On the left and right sides of the head (bilateral).
  • Over-the-counter medication is effective.
  • Worse when performing routine tasks (such as bending over or walking upstairs).

Migraines

The second most prevalent type of the main headache is migraines. Migraine symptoms include:

  • Pain that ranges from moderate to severe.
  • Vomiting or nausea.
  • Pain that is pounding or throbbing.
  • Pain can last anywhere from four hours to three days.
  • Light, noise, and odour sensitivity.
  • Abdominal ache or stomach distress.

Cluster headaches

The most severe type of primary headache is a cluster headache. Cluster headaches commonly appear in groups or clusters in the spring or fall. During a cluster period, which can span two weeks to three months, they occur one to eight times every day. The headaches may go away for months or years (go into remission), only to return later. Cluster headaches cause the following symptoms:

  • A scorching or stabbing sensation is present.
  • Without changing sides, behind one of your eyes or in the ocular region.
  • It could be throbbing or it could be continual.

New daily persistent headaches

New daily persistent headaches (NDPH) appear out of nowhere and endure for over three months. They are most common among those who have never had a lot of headaches previously. The following are the symptoms of NDPH:

  • Consistent and unwavering in their efforts.
  • Both sides of the head are affected.
  • Medication does not seem to help.

Sinus headaches

A sinus infection produces congestion and inflammation in the sinuses, resulting in sinus headaches (open passageways behind the cheeks and forehead). Migraines are frequently misdiagnosed as sinus headaches by both patients and healthcare providers. Sinus headaches can cause the following symptoms:

  • There is a bad taste in my mouth.
  • Your cheekbones and forehead are in excruciating pain.
  • Swelling of the face.
  • In the ears, there is a feeling of fullness.
  • Fever.
  • Pain that worsens when you move your head quickly or strain.
  • Mucus production (snot).

Medication overuse headaches

Up to 5% of patients experience medication overuse headaches (MOH) or rebound headaches. They occur when you take pain medicines for headaches on a regular basis. This habit can eventually lead to an increase in the number of headaches you experience. MOH symptoms include:

  • Headaches are getting more common.
  • There are more days when I have headaches than when I don’t.
  • Pain that is worse first thing in the morning.

Headaches in children

By the time they reach high school, most youngsters have experienced a headache. Tension headaches and migraines affect roughly 20% of them on a regular basis. Children’s headache triggers are similar to those of adults:

  • Certain meals are known to cause headaches in some people.
  • Sleep patterns have shifted.
  • Environmental considerations are important.
  • Stress.

Treatment

Identifying your triggers is one of the most important aspects of treating headaches. Learning what they are — usually by keeping a headache journal — can help you have fewer headaches.

Your healthcare practitioner can adapt treatment to you once you’ve identified your triggers. When you’re nervous or worried, for example, you could experience headaches. Counselling and stress management approaches can assist you in dealing with this trigger more effectively. Stress-related headaches can be avoided by lowering your stress level.

Not every headache necessitates the use of drugs. Treatments are accessible in a variety of forms. Treatment options vary depending on the type, frequency, and cause of your headache:

Stress management

Stress management is a skill that teaches you how to deal with difficult situations. Relaxation practises can help you cope with stress. To relieve tension, you employ deep breathing, muscle relaxation, mental imagery, and music.

Biofeedback

Biofeedback teaches you how to notice when your body is tense. You’ll discover how your body reacts to stressful situations and how to calm down. Sensors are attached to your body during biofeedback. They keep track of your automatic physical reactions to headaches, such as an increase in:

  • Breathing rate.
  • Pulse.
  • Heart rate.
  • Temperature.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Brain activity.

Medications

Over-the-counter pain medications usually work effectively for occasional tension headaches. However, excessive use of these drugs can result in long-term daily headaches.

Prescription headache treatments may be recommended if you have regular or severe headaches. A migraine attack can be stopped using triptans and other medications. You take them as soon as you feel a headache coming on.

Migraine prevention is occasionally possible with medications for high blood pressure, seizures, and depression. To lessen headache frequency, your doctor may advise you to try one of these drugs.

Prevention

Finding out what causes headache symptoms is crucial to preventing them. Triggers are unique to each individual; what gives you a headache may not bother others. You can avoid or reduce your triggers once you’ve identified them.

You may, for example, notice that strong scents irritate you. Avoiding fragrances and scented goods can significantly reduce the number of headaches you get. Other common factors include irritable meals, little sleep, and bad posture.

Many others, on the other hand, are either unable to avoid or identify triggers. In such cases, a more tailored interdisciplinary treatment involving a headache symptoms specialist is frequently required.

Living With

Headache symptoms can be treated in a variety of ways. Keep note of your progress as you begin a therapy programme. A headache journal might assist you in tracking your progress.

Consider the following questions:

  • Is it true that my headaches are becoming less frequent?
  • Is there a difference in severity?
  • Do they vanish more quickly?

If you don’t see any improvement, schedule a follow-up appointment with your doctor. It’s possible that you’ll have to try something new.

Outlook

Headache symptoms can be relieved by treating health disorders that cause them, such as high blood pressure. There have been a few recent breakthroughs in our understanding of what causes headaches. Although we are closer to treatment than we have ever been, there is currently no cure for primary headaches. The goal of treatment is to alleviate symptoms while also preventing future occurrences.

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