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My Aching Head!

Nearly everyone suffers from a headache at some point in life. But, there are different types of headaches, and knowing which sort you are suffering from could make coping with your pain easier.

About 78 percent of adults experience a tension-type headache, which is the most common form of headache. The underlying cause is likely due to imbalances in the brain and may be related to muscle tightening in the back of the neck and/or scalp. There are three kinds of tension-type headaches:
  • episodic, occurring less than once per month and considered “stress” headaches
  • frequent, occurring 1-15 days per month, often simultaneously with migraines
  • chronic, occurring 15 or more days per month, and often associated with depression or other emotional problems.

A migraine headache is identified by throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head and often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines affect both men and women, although three times more women experience them. Migraines are often hereditary. If both parents suffer from migraines, there is a 75 percent chance their children will. When only one parent has migraines, there is a 50 percent chance their children will too. Triggers may include one or more of the following: diet, activity, environment, emotions, medications and hormones.

Less common are cluster headaches, which are characterized by groupings of attacks. The cause of clusters is unknown, and about 90 percent of the sufferers are men. Clusters start suddenly with a feeling of discomfort or a mild, one-sided burning sensation. Although the pain of each attack is felt for a short amount of time, the headache itself may last several hours, often recurring later the same day.

Secondary headaches are a symptom of other diseases and disorders, like tumors, infection, high blood pressure, blood clots and aneurysms. Because these conditions can be life- threatening, immediate evaluation by a physician is recommended. Some signs that the headache is related to a serious disorder include: change in headache pattern; headache associated with a medical problem such as focal weakness, loss of consciousness or confusion; or pain that becomes progressively more severe.

Source: National Headache Foundation
In order to accurately diagnose your headache pain, it is important to consult with a physician. This evaluation will include a history, physical examination and possible testing to exclude underlying diseases. For more information, contact your health care provider or North Oaks Neurology Clinic at (985) 345-7525.