Identify your headache

Identify your headache

Understanding the type of headache you suffer from, and its causes is very essential. For a headache can get as worse as being suicidal, warns Dr Kartavya Shah.

Headache is perhaps one of the most common ailments that haunts four out of every five individuals. However, not all headaches are the same. Not only are the frequency and symptoms different, but the causes are different too. Here’s a cursory reading to help you find out what type of headache you might be suffering from.

Cluster Headaches

This type of headache is common in the age group 20 to 50 years. More common in males. Usually patients present with one sided i.e; unilateral headache. It is very severe in nature, mostly accompanied by pain behind the eye of the affected side, redness, and watering from the eye. This pain is stabbing in nature, not usually associated with nausea. These episodes of headaches last from 15 min to 3 hours.

It occurs periodically with episodes of self-remissions. The female patients of cluster headaches usually explain it as worse than labour pains and hence it confirms the severity. This type is commonly called "suicidal headaches" as some people have even committed suicide because of it. Cluster Headaches are nowadays commonly encountered in adolescents in spite of the hypothetical description of age group.

This headache occurs due to dilatation of blood vessels. There is speculation of a genetic component to cluster headaches, although no single gene has yet been identified as the cause. Tobacco, alcohol, nitrates, and nitric-oxide containing substances can trigger cluster headaches. Most headache patients are advised to avoid foods high in tyramines, an amino acid. These foods include aged cheeses, peanuts, red wine, cured or smoked meat or fish, and chocolate.

Non-Progressive Headaches

This is the most common type of primary headache disorder. Patients usually complain of constant daily headaches which are tight in quality but are non pulsatile. Headaches are precipitated by emotional stress, fatigue, noise or glare. It is usually generalized. They may be most intense about the neck or at the back of the head and are not associated with focal neurologic symptoms.

The headaches are common during childhood and become more frequent during adolescence. Before puberty, boys are affected more frequently than girls, but after the onset of puberty, headaches occur more frequently in girls.

Sinusitis

Sinusitis is a medical condition which refers to the inflammation of the sinuses around the nose (the paranasal sinuses). The paranasal sinuses are air-filled pockets - within the bones of the face and skull - which are found near the nose. Sinusitis results from bacterial, fungal, and viral infection of these air spaces and from allergies and autoimmune disorders that affect the sinuses. Sinusitis in children usually occurs after a cold or allergic inflammation of the nose.

Sinusitis is nowadays commonly encountered in adolescents, due to increased pollution and lifestyle changes. The exact data of prevalence, incidence in this age group is currently not available.

Antibiotics, pain relievers, saltwater nasal spray or drops are usually necessary to relieve the symptoms. In some cases, surgery may be necessary.

Menstrual Migraines

Menstruation is a significant risk factor for migraine, with attacks most likely to occur on or between 2 days before the onset of menstruation and the first 3 days of bleeding. Although menstrual migraines have been recognized for many years, diagnostic criteria have only recently been published.

The exact causes of menstrual migraines are not known for sure but there is a link between falling levels of the female hormone estrogen and the onset of a migraine attack. The estrogen level may fall after bleeding occurs during the menstrual cycle or when external sources of estrogen are no longer taken, like when a woman stops taking birth control pills or hormone pills in hormone replacement therapy. Menstrual migraines are most commonly seen in early years after the puberty.

A pounding throbbing headache with the pain being on one side of the head (unilateral). The side of the head that has the pain changes from one headache to the next. Other symptoms include sleepiness, fatigue, restlessness, depression, nausea.
It is advisable to consult your physician with regard to medication, as it is advisable to avoid over-the-counter-drugs for this type of headache.

Natural treatment

The patient must learn about their headache type and recording what triggers the headaches, such as lack of sleep, a poor diet, degree of disability, your environment, or stress.

Here are certain relaxation techniques can help modify the pain and/or frequency of most types of headaches:

* Lie down and imagine beautiful scenery - of waterfalls, grasslands, forests, and the likes

*  Stretch and relax your muscles

*  Apply a cold compress to your head

*  Take a hot shower

*  Take breaks from activities that trigger or provoke headaches, such as using the computer for long periods of time, studying, or exercising strenuously

* Practise deep breathing exercises

*  Practise progressive muscle relaxation

*  Listen to soothing music at a low volume in a silent room

(The writer is a family medicine specialist)

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