What Causes A Headache?
That's a very big question in fact and it requires us to mention some of the different types of headaches and it's causes:
1) Tension Headache:
The most common type of headache that we all feel after stress or a long day at work, also known as Myogenic Headache.
90% of headaches are tension headaches. Usually described as mild to moderate pain in the forehead or all over the head as if someone is squeezing your head!
It's cause is unkown, some theories say it's due to emotional stress or may be myogenic = muscular in origin. As in people who are used to frown for hours during studying who feels a headache specially at the forehead. Or after a long day at work when your neck and eye muscles are fatigued, the pain is referred from these muscles to your head, forehead and eye brows.
Some of the common causes:
- Frowning for long periods.
- Eye strain.
- Fatigue in neck/spine muscles.
- Lack of sleep.
- A long stressful work day.
- Caffiene withdrawal.
- Exposure to noise for long periods.
Tension headache is not associated with other symptoms and not a part of another condition, they are painful but not dangerous.
It can be easily treated with over-the-counter analgesics/pain killers such as Aspirin, Paracetamol and Ibuprofen. Note that these drugs shouldn't be overused (they cause overuse headache!) shouldn't be taken on an empty stomach, Aspirin shouldn't be given to children.
The headache can be reliefed and prevented by avoiding the causes mentioned above.
The second most common type of migrane. Migrane maybe severe and usually in one side of the head, sometimes all over the head. The mechanism of migrane may be vascular due to vasodilatation or neurogenic. It's more common in women and is usually preceeded by an (aura), smelling of a strange smell, blurring of vision or vomiting.
Tension headache and migrane are classified as "Primary headaches".
A secondary headache is due to an underlying problem in the head and neck structures,teeth or spine. I'll only list some of the common types.
3) Sinusitis headache:
A pain in the forehead or over the cheeks associated with sinusitis and flu. It's maximum at the morning and can disappears when sinusitis is treated and with pain killers.
Usually headaches are not dangerous, specially tension headaches. But in some cases the headache may be an alarm indicating a disease or a condition that needs attention and can be seriuos. So when to worry?
When Should You Seek Medical Advice?
- If the headache is very severe, different from the usual headaches you get
- If associated with symptoms like blurring of vision, fever, persistant vomiting.
- If it is associated with altered consciousness or change of behaviour.
- Preceeded by a recent head trauma.
- Disabling and excruciating headache.
- Headache that is resistant to pain killers.
- If asociated with convulsions/seizures.
Other types of headache include:
- Meningitis: The headache is associated with fever, vomiting and neck stifness.
- Brain tumors causing headaches.
- Underlying cervical/vertebral disease.
- Hypertension Headache.
- Sex headache. (rare)