Headaches are the most common affliction in life. Up to 90% of people have experienced headaches at one time or another. Headaches are not more serious than pain and discomfort. Some headaches can indicate more serious conditions and should be treated immediately. A large-scale community-based study of headaches. A community-based study of headache prevalence and diagnosis in Singapore.
Cephalalgia 2003 February 23(1):6-13 found that the average lifetime prevalence of headaches was 82.7% in Singapore. This did not differ between racial groups. There were four types of headaches: migraines (9.3%), episodic and chronic tension type headaches (39.9%), 2.4% and 3.2% respectively.
The brain does not contain pain receptors so headaches can be caused by pain from multiple structures in the head or neck. These include the scalp, neck muscles, meninges, extra-cranial arterial, large veins, cranial, and spinal nerves. Headaches can also be caused by pain from the eyes, sinuses, temporomandibular joints, and eyes.
A headache can be classified as either Primary (where it isn’t caused by an underlying medical condition) or Secondary. Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. It is described as a mild to moderately constricting, pressing, or tight pain on one side of the head. It is not usually exacerbated by routine activity like walking and there is rarely any nausea or vomiting.
Tension headaches can be caused by muscle tension in the neck, shoulders and forehead. This happens when the muscles are tightened by poor posture, stress, fatigue, eye strain, or fatigue. Simple painkillers such as paracetamol and NSAIDS (non-steriodal, anti-inflammatory drugs) are effective in treating tension headaches. Caffeine has also been proven to be helpful. Prophylactic treatment may be necessary for patients suffering from chronic tension-type headaches.
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Migraines are more common in young people and cause severe, throbbing headaches, usually on one side. Migraines are often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and an increased sensitivity to light and sound. Resting in a darkened area can help relieve migraine pain. An oral pain-killer or migraine-specific medication (ergotamine or triptans) can be used to treat acute migraine attacks.
Injections may be necessary for nausea control and pain relief if vomiting is severe. Your doctor may recommend prophylactic treatment for patients who suffer from frequent migraine attacks. Cluster headaches are the most common type of primary headache and affect almost exclusively males. They are often extremely painful and occur in “clusters”, which can last for several weeks. They are described as being constant, deep, and excruciating, always on one side. You may also experience nausea, a runny nose, a blocked nose, or a droopy, red or teary eye.
Cluster headache sufferers may feel compelled or compelled to move around the room or sit in a chair. This is not the case for migraine sufferers who want to lie down and rest. Secondary headaches can be a sign of underlying conditions and should be treated immediately.
Secondary headaches can be caused by infections of the brain, meninges (lining) and brain, strokes, tumours, bleeding from the brain due to trauma, sleep apnoea and very high blood pressure. Your doctor will conduct a clinical interview and then conduct a neurological examination to assess the severity of your headache.
Your doctor may refer you to an emergency department or recommend imaging studies in an outpatient setting if there are any symptoms or signs that suggest a more serious secondary cause. Most primary headaches can be treated with simple measures.
Headaches can be caused by poor sleep quality. To have more headache-free days, make sure you get enough sleep.
- Cold Therapy: A cold pack or ice pack applied to the area of pain during an acute headache attack can temporarily relieve the pain and reduce tension.
- Stress: Stress can often lead to tension headaches and migraine-type headaches. Meditation, exercise, and stress management techniques can all be used to reduce or prevent headaches.
- Healthy Eye Care: Long-term reading and computer work can cause headaches. Eye strain can be aggravated by not wearing glasses that are prescribed for your vision.