Healthwise with Dr Seun Oladokun

ALMOST all of us have experienced one form of headache or the other and many have or are experiencing it in its severity. It is usually a warning sign for the body it may stem from stress of emotional distress or can be from a medical disorder. This is one of the most common symptoms expressed which might be the main or the only cause of seeking medical help or as a part of several other symptoms of an illness. Headaches, when severe can be responsible for loss of working hours due to reduced ability to function optimally, and may reduce the quality of life in a per-son.There are several causes of headaches and these can be grouped into primary or secondary causes.

Primary causes of headaches can be benign (mild), recurrent and they are without an underlying illness or disease.They can either be Episodic headaches may occur every so often or even just once in a while. They can last anywhere from half an hour to several hours or Chronic head-aches are more consistent. They occur most days out of the month and can last for days at a time. In these cases, a pain management plan is necessary.

The primary types of headaches may include tension type headaches which may feel like a non-throbbing dull, aching sensation all over your head. Tenderness or sensitivity around your neck, forehead, scalp, or shoulder muscles also might occur. Anyone can get a tension headache, and they’re often triggered by stress. It is usually relived by the regular analgesics. Cluster headaches are characterized by severe burning and piercing pain which occur in series and can last for between a few minutes to some hours and can occur for several days in a month. They occur around or behind one eye or on one side of the face at a time. Sometimes swelling, redness, flushing, and sweating can occur on the side that’s affected by the head-ache. Nasal congestion and eye tearing also often occur on the same side as the headache. Although the cause of these cluster headaches are not fully under-stood, once a diagnosis is made treatments plan by the doctors are usually effective in achieving relief for periods of time these may include use of local anaesthetic agents, administration of oxygen as well as other drugs.

Exertion headaches happen quickly after periods of intense physical activity and the headaches are of short duration. Lifting weights, running, and sexual inter-course are all common causes of exertion headache. It’s thought that these activities cause increased blood flow to the head, which can lead to a throbbing headache on both sides of your head. This type of headache usually resolves within a few minutes or several hours. Mild analgesics are also very effective.

Migraines can run in families and are diagnosed using certain criteria. These include: at least five previous episodes of headaches;lasting between 4–72 hours; with at least two out of these four: onesided pain, throbbing pain, moderateto-severe pain, and pain that interferes with, is worsened by, or prohibits routine activ-ity; and At least one associated feature: nausea and/or vomiting, or, if those are not present, then sensitivity to light and sound. A migraine may be foreshadowed by aura, such as visual distortions which include seeing shimmering lights, zigzag lines, stars, blind spots. Auras can also include tingling on one side of your face or in one arm and trouble speaking. However, the symptoms of a stroke can also mimic a migraine, so if any of these symptoms are new to you, you should seek immediate medical attention. Treat-ment plan should be in conjunction with your doctor to get the best results.

The secondary causes of headaches are with underlying problems. These include allergic or sinus headaches which are focused in the front of the head origination from the sinus area. There may be a fever. Treatment is thinning the mucus plug in the sinus. Rebound headaches manifest like a dull, tension-type headache, or like a migraine. They usually occur among patient that overuse painkillers especially when used on a regular basis for long durations of up to 2 weeks. They’re also more common with medications that contain caffeine. Effective treatment is to wean yourself off of the medication that you’ve been taking to control pain. Although the pain may worsen at first, it should completely subside within a few days.

Caffeine especially when used regularly as well as sudden stoppage after a long term use may cause headaches. The best way to manage this type of headache in people trying to quit coffee is to gradually reduce the content taken daily over some time before the stoppage. Quitting coffee altogether prevents recurrence of the headache after successful wean off. About 60% of women experience a headache in relation to their menstrual cycle. This may occur before, during or after the menses. This is usually due to changes in the hormones of the body. Mild analgesics, relaxation techniques and behavioural modification can be effective in managing it.

High blood pressures are also a common cause of headaches especially in blacks it is felt on both sided of the head and is pulsating, which worsens with any activity. There may be associated with numbness, weakness or even nose bleeds. This type of headache is an emergency and prompt presentation to the doctor is essential as it can lead to stroke. The headache subsides with control of the blood pressure. As hypertension is commoner in blacks routine check of blood pressure is essential. And compliance with medication is needed by those already diagnosed with it.

Other causes of secondary headaches include infections like meningitis and encephalitis these are infection of the coverings of the brain and spinal cord. These are usually accompanied by fever there may be unconsciousness and prompt treatment is required to prevent morbidity. Headaches may also follow head injury and it may last for up to 6 months after the injury occurred. It may also become chronic. Plan of management is usually instituted by the doctor and antidepres-sants might even be required.

Headaches are natures warning signs to protect us from imminent danger, symp-tomatic treatment is often suitable for some types, however long term need or ineffective relief with the use of over the counter medication or worsening symp-tom might require an additional input or a more professional treatment plan by your physician.

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