We have all experienced headaches at one time or another, but how do you know if that severe frequent headache may be something else?
We all experience headaches from time to time, and many of us suffer from more severe headaches related to muscle tension, allergies, cluster headaches and even Migraines.
But how do you know if those frequent severe headaches are something to be a bit more concerned about?
When is it really time to make an appointment with the family doctor to discuss your headache pain?
First and foremost;
Consider alternatives before reaching for your favorite over the counter pain reliever.
Realize that here in America, we frequently run to the medicine cabinet for Tylenol, Aspirin, Motrin or some other pain reliever more often than we probably should.
Over time we develop a tolerance to pain medications and find that we need more and more to cope with the pain. We begin with baby strength pain relievers as children and by the time we make it to adult hood we are reaching for the extra strength pain relievers, later on just 2 have little effect so we reach for 3, 4 and sometimes more!
For ordinary everyday pain try using ice or heat, lay down in a quiet dark room, drink a strong cup of coffee. Take an antihistamine like Benadryl, if your problem is caused by allergies. Instead of reaching for that extra dose of your favorite pain reliever.
There are several old home remedies for the treatment of pain that we rarely use anymore. Such as a muscle rub, a small amount of Vicks Vapor Rub and even some herbal teas are known to do a great job of relieving simple everyday pain.
Stepping away from a stressful problem for a little while will not only go a long way towards preventing that headache but will give you some time so that you can look at it from a fresh perspective later on.
If Caffeine triggers your headaches try to avoid drinks containing it.
If allergies are your problem try taking your allergy medication a half hour before you expect exposure to your potential allergen trigger.
A little time in calendar days between doses of common pain relievers will go a long way towards decreasing tolerance and help them work better when they are really needed.
Explanation of various types of severe headaches, not all headaches are created equal.
There are 4 common types of severe headache pain.
1. How do I know it is just a Sinus Headache?
This type of headache pain is usually located in the area of the forehead or over the cheekbones, these are the frontal and Maxillary sinus areas. These types of headaches feel as if there is a heavy pressure with pain over these areas in particular.
Typically, sinus headaches are directly caused by airborne allergens but they may also be caused by allergens that we have come into contact with through foods, ingested liquids, or even more rarely by an allergen having direct contact with the skin.
Often we already know the triggers for these headaches and as such we should be responsible for trying to avoid these known triggers or by taking an antihistamine to prevent the reaction in the first place if we know that we will be coming into contact with something we have had an allergic reaction from.
2. Cluster Headaches
What is a Cluster headache?
Pain is usually centered or located in one or the other eye and seems to explode out the back of the head, these are frequent recurrent severe headaches and you may have several over the course of a day or two, which makes them feel like they just never seem to really go away.
3. Tension Headaches
How do you recognise a tension Headache?
Tension Headaches often feel like a band is squeezing your head or they may come from the lower part of the back of your skull and run down your neck.
Tension headaches are by far the most common and easiest to treat
4. Migraine Headaches
What are the symptoms of a Migraine Headache?
Typically on one side or the other of your head, often accompanied by nausea, severe pain, visual changes with sensitivity to light and or sounds.
Migraine Headaches probably account for the #1 reason that women miss days at work. They are not only triggered by several factors but by our monthly hormone shifts as well. The day before Menstruation is typically the most common day a woman is likely to experience a Migraine Headache due to the massive hormonal shift our bodies go through in perpetration for menstruation.
These can come on suddenly or with a pre-migraine aura of visual signal that the migraine is about to attack.
There are prescription medications you can take at the pre-migraine aura stage that will prevent the attack, but once it occurs you should go into a darkened quiet room, apply ice to the forehead and back of the head near the neck and then simply try to sleep this one off instead of grabbing pain medications that probably will not do any good anyway.
The best migraine treatment is avoidance of the triggers.
One common remedy for treating the Migraine at it's source needs to be taken at the pre-aura stage.
Excedrin Migraine taken at the pre-aura stage can help some people as can this home remedy. Take 1 one aspirin, 2 Tylenol and a strong cup of coffee. The theory behind either of these remedies is that the aspirin will help with any inflammation near the nerves, the Tylenol helps with the pain and the coffee acts as a vaso-stimulant to open up the arteries and veins and allow for greater blood flow.
The current consensus is that it is vasoconstriction that may be the actual cause of the migraine itself.
All of the above may be severe enough for you to seek medical attention and higher dose pain relievers are frequently given in Urgent Care and do go a long way towards relieving the associated pain and debilitation of the above types of headaches.
But when do these headaches become severe enough that we should sit down and really discuss them with our doctors?
Frequent severe headaches of any form should be discussed with your doctor if they become disruptive to your regular life's routine. But there are cases when headaches become a real concern. So what should you watch out for???
How do you recognise a potential life threatening problem before it turns deadly?
When a blood vessel in the brain develops an area of weakness it can act like a balloon where it becomes distended and may leak blood or rupture altogether.
How does a brain aneurysm feel?
Often it is described as a sudden severe headache with double vision, neck stiffness, nausea, Vomiting, pain above and behind the eye. These symptoms are frequently accompanied by mental changes such as confusion, forgetfulness, and a loss of mental acuity and alertness. A sufferer may appear drunk, sleepy or confused.
The vast majority of Aneurysm' s are congenital, meaning that we are born with them. Typically, many Americans who have brain or other Aneurysm' s go through their entire lives without complications. The problem comes when we develop high blood pressure, have vascular disease, or an acute trauma to the brain that causes the aneurysm to leak or rupture.
8. Step 8
What are the most common symptoms of a stroke?
A stroke can occur when a blood clot blocks an artery or other blood vessel that supplies blood to the brain.
Stroke victims will often present with a sudden loss of speech or slurred words, weakness on one side of the body, numbness or weakness of the face, visual disturbances or dizziness. Sudden severe headache may also be associated with one or more of the above but is less common.
Stroke is the 3rd leading cause of death in this country.
This is frequently associated with arteriosclerosis or hardening of the arteries and is most often seen in the elderly but can occur at any age even in infants.
What are the symptoms associated with the most common types of brain tumors?
According to one recent study 22,000 Americans will be diagnosed with a cancerous brain tumor this year!
Symptoms include frequent headaches, in particular ones that wake you up in the middle of the night, or in the morning with accompanying blurred vision, nausea and or vomiting, with personality and cognitive changes as well as unexplained seizures.
Traumatic Brain Injury
When a blow or bump anywhere on the head happens the person is at risk, as many as 10% of these can be types of injuries can be fatal! Approximately 550,000 people are hospitalized annually for this type of brain injury.
Victims may feel ok at first but will find themselves feeling woozy and lethargic, they may have trouble with their short term memory, become unaware of their surroundings, find speech and communication difficult, or even a mild to severe headache.
Prompt emergency care detailing to medical personnel the fall and resultant bump on the head is essential to receiving lifesaving care!
Tips & Warnings
Ã¢ÂÂ¢ Any headache that is accompanied by mental, verbal or coordination changes must be evaluated by medical personnel immediatly!