Headaches: Symptom Of Underlying Ailment

Headaches: Symptom Of Underlying Ailment
The causes of headaches are sometimes unknown, but it could be a symptom of a serious or underlying sickness. Whether mild or severe, experts have warned that headaches should not be ignored. RALIAT AHMED-YUSUF writes.

A headache is a pain or discomfort in the head. It is among the most common pain experienced everywhere in the world. Headaches can be triggered or made more severe when sufferers are exposed to specific environmental factors, such as strong odours like cigarette smoke or perfume.

Specific aspects of one’s diet - beverages, meals or snacks - also may trigger a headache. For example, low blood sugar as seen with prolonged fasting or extensive dieting may lead to increased headaches.

Most people with headaches can feel much better by making lifestyle changes, learning ways to relax, and sometimes, by taking medications.

Headaches come in different forms, and it is important to understand the type one has in order to know what to do immediately.

Most people often take headaches for granted by taking OTC (over the counter) drugs, such as Paracetamol or other painkillers, which only give temporary relief. It should be borne in mind that taking self-medication, instead of getting to the root cause of a headache, has its own side effects.

The good news about these headaches, says Dr. Holt, a physician at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, is that they are all completely harmless. But not every aching head is a simple headache.

Dr. Charles Agadu, an Abuja-based medical practitioner, has this to say about headaches: “Headaches, generally, are symptoms of underlying pathology going on in an individual.”

According to him, headaches could arise from a variety of disease conditions, especially fevers like malaria, typhoid, yellow fever, Lassa fever and other hemorrhagic fevers. It can also occur in a wide range of bacterial and viral infections like meningitis, Herpes simplex, shingles, HIV, and so on.

“Headaches can also result from a space occupying lesion of the skull like various tumours of the brain and scalp, brain abscesses, hemorrhage stroke affecting the cranial vessels, and hypertension. Whatever the causes of a headache may be, it is good to identify them and treat them immediately,” Dr. Agadu advises.

Below are types of headache that could be a sign of something serious, and potentially deadly.

Tension headache:
This is a headache with diffuse pain wrapping across the top of the head. These headaches often result from stress or lack of sleep. They are not usually disabling, typically fade overnight, and can be easily relieved with ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin.

Migraine headache
Migraines tend to hit one side of the head and can last from several hours to several days. Typical migraine headaches are pulsating, moderate or severe pain, made worse with activity, and associated with nausea and sensitivity to light and/or noise. Some patients experience an aura - a neurological symptom that gradually develops over five to 20 minutes and usually lasts less than 60 minutes - before the headache.

Cluster headache
This type is an excruciating attack that explodes behind one eye, and reaches a crescendo after about an hour, and then vanishes, only to return in a day or so. This goes on for a few weeks, and then, stops for months. Numerous drugs target clusters, including some of the migraine medications.

Thunderclap headache
If head pain hits you like a bolt out from nowhere, intensifying in a few minutes into the worst headache you’ve ever had, see a doctor immediately. The list of causes for this kind of headache isn’t long - aneurysm, stroke, meningitis - but almost everything on it can be very quickly fatal.

Exercise headache
This type of headache comes on quickly and furiously with violent physical exertion, and it is advisable to see a doctor right away. Chances are the cause is benign. But it also could be a subarachnoid hemorrhage.

Headaches that spread to the neck
Benign headaches stay in the head. Headaches that don’t can be meningitis or a hemorrhage. There is need to see a doctor immediately, especially if you have a fever, just getting over a bacterial infection, have a rash, or can’t think clearly.

Headaches that won’t go
A headache that comes and goes for days with a low-grade fever, visual disturbances, and aching in one or both of your temples often signals an inflammation of the arteries that can leave one blind if not treated.

Contagious headache
For those who live in climes where central heating is needed, if one develops a headache as the day goes on, and it grows steadily worse and anyone else has the same headache, move everyone outdoor immediately. There’s a malfunction in your heating system, and it is sending out carbon monoxide. Once you’re out of the house, call the fire department. Your headache should clear up in a few hours.

Headache that wakes you up
There should be concern if headache has been worsening for weeks, or if it is present every morning when you wake up. This is the classic pattern for a slowly expanding mass. It means you should see your doctor right away.
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