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Which Headache is yours?

Monday, 16 March 2009

Today Dr. Philip will be speaking to us about the most common types of headaches, their symptoms and also their treatments.

Headaches are a very common ailment in doctor's surgeries worldwide, there are almost 20 types of headaches & each one is triggered by a different cause.

"Headache" is a general term used to describe any type of aches and pains in the head. They typically involve generalised pain in the head or more regional pain in specific areas, such as in the back of the neck. The sensation can range from a dull ache to throbbing or sharp pains. Different sensations are associated with various causes.
Headaches are one of the most common complaints and although they can be very incapacitating, only a very small percentage is due to serious illness.

Are there different types of headache?
There are nearly twenty different types of headache. Some of the most common include tension headache, migraine, cluster headache and temporal headache.

. Tension headache (also referred to as stress headache)
Often resulting from muscle contractions in the head and neck, the feeling is described as a constant, non-throbbing ache on the sides or at the back of the head, combined with a fullness, tightness or pressure as if a band were strapped across the forehead. Stress, fatigue, depression, poor posture and eye strain can trigger isolated instances of tension headaches, however, they may become chronic and persistent.

. Migraine
Migraine headaches are recurrent disabling headaches. Often starting in puberty, they are twice as common in women as in men and may be chronic. The pain, which is throbbing and severe, usually affects one side of the head and can last anywhere from four hours to three days. Other symptoms of migraine can include nausea, dizziness, vomiting, cold hands and sensitivity to light and sound. Frequency of attacks varies from three to four times a week to one or two attacks in a lifetime. Ten to twenty percent of migraine sufferers have experienced blurred vision, dazzling zigzag lines or tingling in the side of the face. Some people also experience neurological symptoms, such as temporary loss of sight.

Migraines may be triggered by certain foods such as aged cheese, red wine, smoked fish, chocolate, citrus fruit and alcohol. Stress, lack of sleep and smoking also may cause them.

. Cluster headaches
Affecting the eye, cheek or temple, cluster headaches are relatively short-lived, lasting from thirty minutes to three hours. Other symptoms include bloodshot watery eyes, flushing of the face and nasal congestion. The onset of pain occurs during REM (Rapid Eye Movement) sleep and is severe, unilateral and non-throbbing. The pains occur one to three times a day for weeks and sometimes months, and then subside. They may return a few months later, however.

Set off by stress, alcohol and smoking, cluster headaches are four times more common in men than in women.

. Temporal headaches
Temporal headaches are due to inflammation of the temporal artery. Usually seen in people over the age of fifty-five, they may cause sight problems if left untreated. Pains include jabbing, or burning and occur in the temples or around the ear when chewing.

What are the typical causes?
Just as there are many different types of headache, so there are also many causes. Some of the causes are;

. Fever
. Sinusitis
. Tension
. Pre-menstrual tension
. Oral contraceptive pills
. Excessive codeine
. Alcohol intake
. Cigarette smoking
. Cervical arthritis
. Head injury
. Inflamed temporal arteries
. Brain tumour

What treatments are available?
Rather than merely treating the symptom of the headache, seek to treat the cause. Relying too heavily on aspirin or other over-the-counter painkillers can actually make chronic headaches worse. As certain foods can trigger headaches, try eliminating alcohol, bananas, cheese, chicken, chocolate, citrus fruits, cold cuts, herring, onions, peanut butter, pork, smoked fish and fresh-baked yeast products. Gradually reintroduce the foods into your diet one-by-one to see whether or not they trigger a headache.

NB: Consult a nutritionist if you have any specific nutritional enquiries.

Tension headaches can be relieved by taking over-the-counter painkillers. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs also may be effective in relieving the headaches. If the tension headaches are chronic, they may be associated with depression.

Treatment for migraines involves avoiding known triggers. A study published in the British medical journal The Lancet showed that 93% of migraine sufferers found relief from eliminating allergenic foods from their diet. If you suffer from migraines, familiarise yourself with what foods may precipitate an attack. Also, consult your doctor about the various drugs aimed at preventing migraines.

Various forms of headache tablets .
. Solpadine
. Paracetemol
. Solpedol
. Ibuprofen