Common headaches are very normal and most people will experience them at different points throughout their life, but other types of headache can become more problematic.
Neuraxpharm provides medication alternatives for headache and once your doctor has determined your specific needs, they can prescribe the product that best adapts to your needs and condition.
Learn about the different types of headache, their symptoms and how to deal with them.
As the name suggests, headaches involve pain in the head. The severity and exact location of the pain will vary depending on the type of headache you’re experiencing. Some headaches may also affect the eyes, neck and face, and they can also be accompanied by symptoms such as nausea and sensitivity to light.
Global statistics show that headaches are incredibly common. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), it’s estimated that half to three quarters of adults aged 18–65 have experienced a headache in the last year. Of those, 30% or more have had a migraine. Chronic headache (experienced on 15 or more days each month) affects 1.7-4% of the world’s adult population.
All headaches involve pain in some part of the head, but the specific symptoms you experience will depend on the type of headache you have.
Some headaches cause a simple aching feeling in part of the head; others are more intense and are accompanied by other side effects. Here are the main symptoms to look out for:
Some headaches, such as cluster headaches, come on suddenly, while others like migraines can build up slowly. People who experience regular headaches often find it helpful to keep a headache diary and note down when each headache happens, how they felt beforehand and what symptoms they experienced. This can help to identify any common factors that could be affecting the headaches.
People who experience migraines are most likely to notice early signs. These include:
Migraines may also be accompanied by an aura, which is a term used to describe symptoms that appear before a migraine, acting like a warning. These can include:
Tension headaches are primary headaches, so they are not caused by another condition, but there are certain factors that are thought to trigger them. These include stress and anxiety, dehydration, missing meals, bad posture, squinting and a lack of exercise.
Cluster headaches are also primary headaches. It is thought that people who smoke are more at risk of getting them, and they can also be triggered by drinking alcohol or by strong smells like petrol or paint.
Doctors are still unsure about the exact causes of migraine but they think it could be related to temporary changes in the chemicals, nerves and blood vessels in the brain. Some people find that their migraines are related to certain factors such as their menstrual cycle, diet, tiredness or stress.
Migraines tend to affect more women than men. They can come on at any age, but they seem to be more problematic in middle age and ease off in the later stages of life.
Tension headaches are also more common in women and affect teenagers and adults the most. Cluster headaches are rarer and affect smokers more than non-smokers.
Headaches are not life-threatening but they can affect your quality of life.
Most people’s experience of tension headaches is episodic, which means that they get them from time to time, but they can be chronic – when they are present for more than 15 days in a month.
Migraines can have a bigger impact on daily life, especially for people who suffer from regular, long-lasting migraines. The same goes for cluster headaches, which cause intense pain over a prolonged period of time. However, most people are able to find treatments to help reduce the symptoms.
It’s not always necessary to get a diagnosis for headaches. Most people who experience tension headaches are able to deal with them without professional medical help; diagnosis can help people who get regular migraines.
If you think you have had a cluster headache it’s important to see your doctor straight away. They may recommend a brain scan to rule out other conditions that can have similar symptoms to cluster headaches.
It can take time to diagnose migraines as they are often unpredictable. Doctors will examine your vision, reflexes and coordination and ask you questions about your symptoms. If you have kept a migraine diary it can help them to spot any patterns and be a useful tool for the doctor to make a firm diagnosis.
It’s easy to keep a migraine diary – simply draw up a table so that you can note down any of the following information whenever you experience a migraine:
With cluster headaches, the doctors will ask you a range of questions about the symptoms you’re experiencing. If they carry out a brain scan, they will expect it to come back as normal. If you are diagnosed with cluster headaches, you may see a neurologist (brain and nerve specialist) to discuss your treatment options.
It can be difficult to tell primary and secondary headaches apart and doctors may need to take some tests if they’re unsure. These could include blood tests to check for other conditions, as well as MRI scans and CT scans to get a better picture of what’s going on inside the brain.
There are no specific tests to tell if you are getting migraines, but sometimes doctors will want to do tests to rule out other conditions with similar symptoms. These may include blood tests, MRI scans and an electroencephalogram (EEG).
The good news is that most types of headache can be successfully treated. A range of medication is available, and often making changes to your lifestyle can make a big difference, too.
Depending on the type of headache you’re experiencing, you may need to try a combination of approaches, to see what works best for you.
There is no definitive way to prevent headaches but many of the treatments mentioned above can also be used as preventative methods to help stop them reoccurring.
Lifestyle factors such as taking regular exercise, following a healthy diet and taking measures to reduce stress, as well as reducing your alcohol consumption and giving up smoking, are all recommended as preventative measures for headaches.
Many people who suffer from migraines find that by gaining a better understanding of the factors that can trigger a migraine, they can take steps to prevent them from happening so frequently. One of the best ways to do this is through a migraine diary that can help to show whether a certain food, or something like stress or a lack of sleep, is triggering an attack.
Certain drugs have been shown to help prevent migraines in some people but they may not be suitable if you have other health problems and should only be prescribed by your doctor.