Headaches – Causes and Treatment

Headache is a very common health problem that most people come across in their day to day lives due to severe stress. There are several reasons behind causing a headache on a frequent basis. When people get a headache due to stress, it can be cured by taking some rest for an adequate amount of time. In case, people get a headache quite often even without undergoing stress, it is considered a serious headache.

Mostly, people take medicine to get some relief from the headache. If the headache is very frequent, such folks should consult a doctor as it may turn out to become severe and complicated. This guide helps in finding out whether the headache is simple or complicated. Get precise answers to all your doubts and queries through this blog.
Here is an excerpt from a video interview with Dr G B Varaprasad, Consultant Neuro Surgeon at Omni Hospitals, Kukatpally, Hyderabad on the topic ‘Headaches.’ Get to know more information about headaches, types of headache, causes and treatment options in this guide.

Q. How common is a headache?

A. Headache is a very common problem that appears quite frequently in any individual’s life. There is no age limit for getting a headache. Any person may come across this problem on a frequent basis due to some stress or some strain.

Q. How clinically significant is a headache?

A. The significance of a headache depends on the suffering of an individual. For instance, you may get a headache when you go around or travel for a long time on a summer day. By taking some rest if the headache comes down then, it is not a significant headache.

It means you got a headache due to severe stress and strain. When you get a headache repeatedly then, it is considered a clinically significant headache. In such a case, people shouldn’t ignore it and think about it seriously.

Q. How to differentiate between simple and complicated headache?

A. If any headache comes down even before taking medicine then, it is considered a simple headache. If the stimulus is present or not and you are suffering from the headache for a prolonged time then, it is known as a complicated headache.

Q. What is analgesic surgery?

A. Analgesic is a member of the drugs group that helps in providing some pain relief. One should actually know when people need pain killers to get relief from pain and when we need surgery to cure it permanently. For instance, if the patient is using certain medicine for about 3 to 4 days or 1 week then, the headache will be subsided. Such a patient may be free from the headache for about 3 to 5 months. Some other patients require regular medication.
If the patient is suffering from second level headache, the doctors must analyze the nerve which is involved in the headache. Analgesic surgery is an invasive procedure wherein the surgeons inject some drugs with steroids to make the nerve senseless causing the headache. If the patient is suffering from the third level of a headache then, they require a surgery wherein the nerve is decomposed.

Q. What investigations should be done for a headache?

A. Headache can be cured through a multi-disciplinary approach. Some of them include ENT specialists, neurosurgeons, neurologists, general surgeons, general physicians and others. There are several fields in the management of the headache. There is no exclusive specialist who can treat a headache. Headache hasn’t evolved to such a greater extent that it requires some specialty.

In general, a person may get a headache due to just sinusitis. Some of them may suffer from regular sinusitis. Some sort of investigation must be done on this kind of people by performing a PNH test. This test helps in understanding the condition of the sinusitis. Another investigation can be done to find out the refractive error. In the people with some eyesight, the refractive error might be changed. It may lead to a headache if it is not corrected immediately. Such patients should consult an ophthalmologist.

Besides these two investigations, whenever a patient is suffering from the compressions of the skull associated nerve roots, they need to consult a neurologist. A neurologist usually evaluates the problems related to nerves in the skull. Based on the investigations, the patient should visit a specialist if the headache is complicated and severe.

Q. What is the proper approach to treating a headache?

A. Initially, a general physician should be able to find out the major cause of the patient’s headache. After performing some clinical examination and essential investigations, the physician will come to know the root cause of the headache.

Q. What are the causes of a headache?

A. Mostly, people get a headache due to the following reasons:

  • Not having breakfast in the morning
  • Repeated sinus infections
  • Increased blood pressure

The physician will diagnose the major cause of your headaches and provides treatment accordingly.

Q. What is Migraine?

A. Migraine is a neurological problem that comes again and again in a similar fashion to the patient with a similar stimulus. Some of the symptoms of the migraine include blurred vision, nausea, forehead pain, neck pain and more. Each person suffering from migraines will have different patterns.

Q. What are the common conditions in predicting the headache?

A. Usually, people get a headache above the eyebrows. When people get pain in temporals, frontals, supraorbital, parietals, occipitals and suboccipital then, it is known as a headache. Global headache is another type of headache. When a person suffers from a headache all over the head then, it is called a global headache. One-sided headache is another type of headache. All these conditions fall under the headache.

Q. What are the common symptoms of a tension headache?

A. When you visit a doctor for a headache, the doctor asks about the location. Usually tension headache is caused on the top of the head. There are several symptoms of a tension headache. However, it varies from one person to another person. Based on the stress the person has and tensions, it is possible to decide the pattern of a headache. If your headache is associated with some other problems then, the tension headache triggers in some other regions of the head and face.

For instance, a person may get a tension headache at the end of a hectic working day. It indicates that you get this type of headache due to work stress and strain. In such a case, you may not be able to locate the proper location of the headache. It can be on the top of the head, on the forehead, on the back or in any other region. This type of headache will be cured automatically when you sleep.

Q. How to find whether the headache is serious?

A. To be precise, regular tension headaches and some sort of migraines need not be worried. If your headache is associated with vomiting and nausea then, you must take the headache as a serious condition. In some cases, the patient’s headache may come down only after vomiting. It is a classic sign of intracranial hypertension.A person usually suffers from the intracranial hypertension headache when there is increased pressure within the skull.
Another serious condition is when your headache is prolonged. This kind of headache may completely change the quality of your life. As a result, you may not be able to perform your day-to-day activities. All your relationships inside and outside the house may not be well preserved. It is another serious condition of the headache and you should consult a doctor immediately.

Q. Why there are failures in providing treatment for a headache?

A. Headache has been considered as a simple and most commonly caused problem for every person. At some or other point of time in life, a person will definitely come across a headache. Mostly, people prefer taking some rest or intake a medicine to get instant relief from the headache. Almost all people have this sort of approach towards a headache.

Even, a doctor will provide treatment only upon considering the interest of the patient in some cases. If the patient isn’t serious about the doctor’s prescriptions and revisions then, the doctor may not be able to give proper treatment to the patient. Another reason for the failures behind treating the headache is that the patient isn’t highly dedicated to getting treatment from the doctor.

If the headache is complicated, the patient needs to visit the doctor regularly to find out the root cause of the headache. There are numerous factors that make the headache more complicated. Besides the physical factors, there are some of the psychological factors and personality disorders that drive the patient towards the cause of a headache. So, the patient should be highly interested and committed to diagnosing the headache from the doctor.

Q. Can kids get headaches?

A. Yes, any individual can get a headache irrespective of the age.

Q. How severe the headaches are in the kids?

A. There are no certain specifications for the severity of the headaches in kids. The parents shouldn’t neglect even a simple headache in the kid. Proper treatment should be given to the kid irrespective of the headache type without ignoring it. Some of the kids mostly don’t fall sick physically unless and until the problem is severe and complicated. Usually, kids are less attentive to a health problem compared to adults.

When a kid is completely attentive towards the headache, you must consider it as a serious problem. Try to get a general body checkup to the kid and take him or her to a pediatrician. A minimal evaluation of a headache is very beneficial to the kids. This way, it is possible to give precise treatment without any delay.

Q. At what age do people most commonly develop migraines?

A. Usually, Migraines are developed in the early adolescent period of an individual. This kind of migraines is familiar. If a person in the family has a migraine, there are higher chances of getting migraines early in the adolescent age is very common.

Q. What are the different types of headaches?

A. There are innumerable types of headaches. For understanding purpose, we say there are two major kinds such as simple headache and complicated headache. Mostly, 90 percent of people suffer from a simple headache. Only 10 percent of people suffer from a serious or complicated headache. Instead of naming the type of headache, it is highly better to find out the root cause of the headache and treat it accordingly.

Q. How to improve the quality of life to get rid of headaches?

A. When your headache has become most common in your life or remains for more than 6 to 10 years then, it will surely change your quality of life. If you are totally habituated and your profession has been adjusted to the headache, it brings the biggest change in your identity and attitude. Some of the people usually suffer from chronic headaches.

In that case, such people should get a complete evaluation by the specialist. The patient suffering from a headache needs to evaluate the personality changes he or she undergo due to this problem. If the headache has become a part of your life, it is better to consult a psychiatrist who will assess your pattern of headache. In this condition, the specialist plays a vital role in helping the patient overcome the headache.

Q. What are the common psychological aspects of severe chronic headaches?

A. It all depends on the psychological conditions of the individual. Try to know yourself whether you are happy like the remaining people around you in your world. For instance, consider your friends are happily celebrating a birthday party. But, you may not be able to adjust to that as you can’t take the noise, food or smell at the party.
The way you receive things that happen in your life shows your condition. Most of the time, such people take a situation in a negative mode. A psychological evaluation is definitely essential when you come across these kinds of instances in your life. Some of them may behave in that way for being bipolar or depressed. A psychologist will be able to give a proper diagnosis to such patients.

Q. Why do I get a headache when I am hungry?

A. Food is the most essential element to remain active the whole day. Your body will have some alarm system and consider your headache is your alarm system. If you don’t take your food at the right time every day, you may get a headache in that situation.

If you get a headache when you are hungry then, it could be because of your improper habits of eating. So, it is better to evaluate and diagnose the root cause of the headache. In some cases, there are some reasons behind causing the headache.

  • Prediabetic state
  • Lack of regular exercise
  • Eating habits at night
  • Glucose intolerance

Q. Why do people get a headache after waking up from sleep?

A. Sleep shouldn’t be a stimulus for the headache. However, it depends on the lying position of the individual during sleep. If you lie on your back in a single position for more than 5 to 6 hours, it may sometimes lead to a headache. It indicates that some pressures in your head are being disturbed. In such a case, you should definitely consult a doctor.

Q. Are tension headaches dangerous?

A. No, tension headaches aren’t dangerous. There is no person without having tensions in their life. However, it is possible to cure this type of tension headache by reducing the tension in your life. Consider what kind of changes can lessen your tension in life and it is quite easy to manage this kind of headache.

Q. Explain chronic headache?

A. A chronic headache is a type of headache that occurs repeatedly every 15 days or monthly. If you get a headache over a period of year or more on a frequent basis then, it is known as a chronic headache.

Q. How long do headaches last?

A. It is a variable thing. It depends on every individual based on their headache type and situation. Some of them may suffer from headaches for a few minutes, hours or sometimes days as well. By considering the time, the doctors usually diagnose them as chronic headaches, vascular headaches, migraines and cluster headaches.

Q. What are the general precautions we need to take to prevent headaches?

A. The major precaution is to get rid of sinusitis as soon as possible. In case, you get a headache due to refractory error, it is advised to get your spectacles re-checked at regular intervals. If you have some dietary habits like drinking more coffee, tea or chocolates, but started getting a headache after stopping them then, you need to diagnose the reason. One of the most important ways of handling such headaches is to avoid them.

Q. How different are headaches in women?

A. Mostly, women are highly prone to several hormonal changes in the body. Every month, women usually face a lot of hormonal changes. Due to these repeated changes of hormones every month, women are more vulnerable to common headaches. Women suffer from different types of headaches, severe headaches and sudden headaches compared to men most of the time.

Dr G B Varaprasad

Consultant Neuro Surgeon

OMNI Hospital, Kukatpally