Most everybody in Goodyear experiences the occasional headache. Like snowflakes, no two headaches are alike. Being able to determine the type of headache you are suffering from is key to treating it effectively.
Causes & Symptoms of Headaches
If you think a headache is a headache, you’re wrong. There are many different types of headaches, each affecting different areas and causing their own unique symptoms. Unfortunately, even with all the advances in modern medicine, doctors don’t really know what causes headaches. They have a general understanding of which areas of the brain are producing pain, but that’s about all.
In order to help your Goodyear ear, nose and throat doctor determine whether your headache is temporary or chronic, you should focus on the specifics – where it’s occurring and what type of pain you are experiencing. The different types of headaches and their causes are listed below.
- Tension headaches. These are the most common type of headache. They are described as a constant ache or pressure in the head or neck. Unlike migraines, they rarely have any accompanying symptoms and are more a nuisance than anything else. Experts think they are caused by contractions of the neck and scalp muscles in response to stress. You can treat a tension headache with over-the-counter pain relievers such as aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Cluster headaches. These headaches occur in groups or clusters. They develop with no warning and cause severe pain on either the left side or right side of the head. Watery eyes, nasal congestion and runny nose often accompany these headaches, which can occur regularly, even several times a day, for extended periods before disappearing entirely for months or years at a time. People experiencing cluster headaches are often restless and feel the urge to lie down. It is speculated that they may have a genetic component. There is no cure for cluster headaches, but avoid possible triggers such as alcohol, cigarettes, high altitudes and certain foods to reduce your chances of experiencing them.
- Sinus headaches. Inflammation of the sinuses, often in response to an infection, can cause pain and pressure, nasal congestion, watery eyes and fever. Similar to migraines, sinus headaches are often accompanied by a green or red-tinged nasal discharge. They usually disappear on their own over time; if severe or persistent, antibiotics may be prescribed.
- Migraine headaches. Migraines are severe headaches with a very specific definition:
- they must have occurred at least five times previously,
- last between 4-72 hours,
- have at least two of the following characteristics:
- one-sided pain, throbbing pain, moderate-to-severe pain, and pain that interferes with, is worsened by, or prohibits routine activity
- have at least one of the following symptoms:
- Nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and/or sound
Migraines are sometimes preceded by an aura, a type of visual distortion or numbness in the hand. Triggers include hormones, stress, and sleeping or eating patterns. Women are three times more likely to suffer migraines than men. Genes may play a role.
- Rebound headaches. Sometimes, the pain medication you take to treat a headache can lead to a rebound headache. This occurs when you’re overusing aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or prescription drugs; it is theorized that taking too much medication shifts the brain into an excited state that triggers additional headaches, or that they are a symptom of withdrawal as the level of medicine in the bloodstream drops.
- Caffeine headaches. The myth that skipping your daily cup of coffee can trigger a headache is actually based in fact. The body can become dependent upon caffeine and experience a withdrawal headache if denied. These are more common in people who drink excessive amounts of coffee (5+ cups a day).
- Ice cream headaches. Also known as a brain freeze, ice cream headaches are characterized by sharp, shooting pain in the head that occurs while eating ice cream or another extremely cold treat. Experts believe sudden cold sensations on the roof of the mouth might increase blood flow to the brain’s arteries, triggering discomfort. The pain usually subsides after a few minutes; sipping warm water can help speed up the process.
- Early-morning headaches. Some people experience headaches upon awakening. These could rebound-type headaches related to medications wearing off overnight. Sleep apnea sufferers are especially susceptible to morning headaches.
- Chronic daily headaches. These are defined as headaches that occur at least 15 days per month for more than three consecutive months. Possible triggers include overuse of pain medications, head injuries, meningitis or tumors. Certain individuals might have improperly working pain signals in the body. Your doctor might prescribe antidepressants, beta-blockers, anti-seizure medications, Botox injections or simply pain relievers to treat chronic daily headaches.
- Menstrual headaches. The sudden drop in estrogen leading up to a period can occasionally trigger a migraine or PMS-related headache. Over-the-counter pain medications and magnesium supplements can help reduce discomfort associated with menstrual headaches.
Despite the pain and discomfort associated with headaches, most aren’t serious. Your Goodyear ENT doctor warns that a sudden-onset headache that is explosive in nature could indicate a brain aneurysm, and a headache accompanied by fever or a sharp rise in blood pressure – especially following a blow to the head or overexertion – could be a sign of a serious condition. Either of these are deemed medical emergencies, especially if symptoms include vision and speech problems, neck pain, dizziness and muscle weakness on one side of the body. Call 911 if you are experiencing any of these.