Headache is one of the most frequent complaints of patients, regardless of which doctor they are contacting. At least isolated episodes of a short-term headache have been experienced by almost every person, and in about half of the population it occurs regularly.
Types of Headache – Primary and Secondary
According to the International Classification of Headache, this condition can be primary and secondary. The prevalence of the primary form is more than 95 percent (of all cases). Primary means that a headache occurs without an organic cause. Migraines, tension headaches, and some others belong to this type. Secondary headache can be caused by infectious diseases, homeostasis disorders, intracranial lesions, head or neck injuries, etc.
The Difference between Headache and Migraine
Migraine is a disease of the nervous system of a chronic nature, which is characterized by regular attacks of dull and then acute throbbing headache. The attack can last from 4 hours to 3 days. Migraine without aura occurs in 90 percent of cases, and 10 percent of patients suffer from a disorder with aura, usually visual one, when a person begins to see flickering and flashes of light. Very rarely olfactory and auditory auras can occur.
A common headache can be caused by various diseases and other factors (for example, pain after a sleepless night), but it is not independent in nature.
Causes of Headache
If you feel a sharp intense pain – this can be a sign of an acute stroke. You need to urgently call an ambulance, since a stroke is a potentially fatal disease. Severe pain with pulsation near the temple may indicate manifestations of temporal arteritis.
Headache is always a key symptom of different types of infections (meningitis, encephalitis and colds). It is accompanied by fever, heaviness in the head, a feeling of compression of eyes and ears, nausea and vomiting in case of acute infections. Often this symptom is a side effect of taking many drugs. Even ordinary Viagra can cause headaches in a small percentage of patients.
Hypertension causes painful cramps with tinnitus, flickering in the eyes, nausea, pain in the heart. Often people with high blood pressure have a headache in the back of the head.
If you experience pain in the eye area (behind the orbits and eyebrows), this may indicate a pathology of the respiratory system associated with venous congestion in the maxillary sinuses or overstrain of the eyeball and eye blood vessels.
If half a head hurts and at the same time the pain moves either to the frontal or occipital area, then the reason lies in vascular pathologies, which some domestic doctors call vegetovascular dystonia (but this diagnosis is not included in the International Classification of Diseases).
However, these are only approximate guidelines. Only a doctor will help determine the cause of headache more accurately.
The following factors contributing to the development of headache or migraine should also be highlighted:
- acute stressful situations
- sharp meteorological changes
- time zone changes (jetlag)
- eating certain food
- drinking certain drinks (tea, coffee)
- colds, acute respiratory infections
Differences in Causes of Headache in Men and Women
In the prevailing number of cases, the causes of this condition are the same in men and women. However, some diseases that can cause headaches are characteristic only for a certain gender, for example, male testosterone deficiency. In addition, menstruation (also cycle disorders), premenopausal and menopausal periods can be specific causes of headaches in females.
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The main treatment for headaches should be to eliminate the key cause of this condition. Therapy for a common non-migrainous headache depends on a patient’s specific disease / condition. As for migraine, there are two main regimens for its treatment: non-specific and specific. The first scheme involves the use of painkillers which are designed to relieve pain symptoms of various localization. The second regimen implies the use of triptans (serotonin receptor agonists) for migraine headaches. This class of medications has been developed specifically for combating migraines and cluster headaches. Their antimigraine activity has been studied, but clear mechanism still needs extra explanation. It is known that triptans may influence central nervous system and blood–brain barrier permeability, as stated in the research by Andrew H. Ahna and Allan I. Basbaum (Pain, 2005 May).