A headache can be defined as pain in any region of the head. The cause, duration and intensity of the pain can vary according to the type of headache. Some people suffer from them monthly, weekly and sometimes even daily. Headaches can range from being a nuisance to being completely debilitating, disrupting your ability to drive, work, concentrate, do daily chores or even stand upright. The most frustrating thing about headaches is that there is so much variety between individuals with different headache types, symptoms and triggers. This makes it very hard to diagnose headaches correctly, and therefore treatment them successfully.
Common Headaches causesSome of the common causes of headaches include
- Illness-including infections like colds, fevers, sinusitis and ear infections
- Stress-emotional stress and depression and factors such as alcohol use, skipping meals, poor sleep, neck tension and sustained postures
- Environmental-strong smells from household chemicals or perfumes, tobacco smoke, allergens, and certain foods. Stress, pollution, noise, lighting, and weather changes are other possible triggers.
- Genetics-migraines tend to have a hereditary component.
When Should you be concerned about a Headache?In a very small percentage of patients there may be a sinister cause of your head pain. This is extremely rare. Read the list below and if you experience any of the following symptoms, please seek the advice of your doctor. Your headache can then be thoroughly investigated to rule out any underlying issues.
- History -your worst ever headache or a different headache to your usual or a sudden change in the type or pattern/intensity of your headaches
- History of cancer
- During or following pregnancy
- Headache at night or waking in the morning.
- Exertion triggers your headache (eg. exercise, cough, sneeze or sex)
- you are aged over 50 years
- Despite treatment, your headache persists
- Acute onset ie. comes on very quickly
- Central nervous system findings (eg weakness, memory loss, slurred speech)
- HIV or other immune system compromise
- Fever or other systemic symptoms (eg. unexplained weight loss, high temperatures, rash).
DiagnosisMost headaches can be diagnosed as:
- Tension headache
- Cervicogenic headache (originating from the neck)
- cluster and sinus headaches.