According to the Migraine Research Foundation, there are 39 million Americans living life with debilitating headaches and migraines. Most sufferers experience attacks once or twice a month, but 4 million people have chronic daily migraines. Of those individuals experience migraines, 18% are women, 6% are men, and 10% are children suffering from this neurological disease. A majority of migraine sufferers are unable to work or function normally during an attack or episode. For Headache and Migraine Awareness Month, Red River ER wants to educate the community on symptoms and treatment for chronic headaches and migraines.
What are the Types of Headaches?
The International Headache Society Criteria, or I.H.S., classifies the different type of headaches as primary or secondary headaches. Primary headaches stem from problems with your brain’s pain- sensitive structures. Primary headache types are divided into 4 groups: migraine, trigeminal autonomic cephalgias (a group of short-lasting but severe headaches), tension headache, and a miscellaneous group. Secondary headaches are symptoms of an underlying condition or illness that affects the brain.
A migraine is a severe throbbing pain or pulsing sensations, usually on one side of the head, that can last anywhere from hours to days. During a migraine attack, the body can experience nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Tingling sensations in your body, difficulty speaking, and visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or blind spots, can happen as well. Generally, genetics; environment; changes in the brainstem and its interactions with the trigeminal nerve, a major pain pathway; and imbalances in brain chemicals play a factor. A large number of factors can increase the risk of having a migraine and differ from person to person. This is why a headache journal is important because anything from missing a meal, to not enough sleep, to strong odors and certain foods can trigger an attack. Keeping a journal, or nowadays a headache app, can help you and your doctor determine the best course of treatment.
Pain-relieving medications are taken during migraine attacks and are designed to stop symptoms. Preventative medications are taken regularly, often daily, to reduce migraine symptoms. Other types of treatment include implementing relaxation techniques, drinking plenty of fluids, exercising regularly, and more. Various alternative medicine such as acupuncture and cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) can be effective forms of treatment as well.
- External compression headaches (a result of pressure-causing headgear)
- Ice cream headaches (commonly called brain freeze)
- Medication overuse headaches (caused by overuse of pain medication)
- Sinus headaches (caused by inflammation and congestion in sinus cavities)
- Spinal headaches (caused by low pressure or volume of cerebrospinal fluid, possibly the result of spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid leak, spinal tap or spinal anesthesia)
- Thunderclap headaches (a group of disorders that involves sudden, severe headaches with multiple causes)
When Should You Seek Emergency Care?
Most secondary headaches are rarely a sign of something serious or life-threatening, and most can be solved with an over-the-counter painkiller. However, if you have experienced severe or recurrent headaches, you should consult with a doctor. A headache could be a symptom of a serious underlying condition such as stroke, meningitis, or encephalitis. According to Harvard Health, you should worry or visit your local emergency room if you are experiencing the below signs:
- Confusion or trouble understanding speech
- Headaches that first develop after age 50
- A major change in the pattern of your headaches
- An unusually severe headache
- Head pain that increases with coughing or movement
- Headaches that get steadily worse
- Changes in personality or mental function
- Headaches that are accompanied by fever, stiff neck, confusion, decreased alertness or memory; or neurological symptoms such as visual disturbances, slurred speech, weakness, numbness, or seizures
- Headaches that are accompanied by a painful red eye
- Headaches that are accompanied by pain and tenderness near the temples
- Headaches after a blow to the head
- Headaches that prevent normal daily activities
- Headaches that come on abruptly, especially if they wake you up
- Headaches in patients with cancer or impaired immune systems
As debilitating headaches and migraines can be, our experienced staff is here to provide you with the utmost quality of services to help you and your family. In the case of any medical emergency, Red River ER is there 24/7, 365 to provide compassionate, concierge-level emergency care to all patients.
Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Red River ER and Nutex Health state no content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.
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