June is National Headache Awareness Week

National Headache Awareness Week

 June 6th-June 12th


What is a Headache? 


A headache can start off as a small ache and then build up into a constant aching and pulsating pain above the eyes, ears, back of the head, or at the upper neck. A headache is a chemical reaction in the brain that can be treated by over-the-counter or prescribed medication. Headaches can be labeled as primary or secondary headaches. Examples of primary headaches are migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches. Other diseases cause secondary headaches. Some of these diseases/disorders may be tumors, strokes, and caffeine withdrawals.


What is a Migraine? 


Migraines are a pain in the head like a headache but are usually accompanied with other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or noise, numbness, or difficulty speaking.  They tend to have pain on one side of the head. Migraines tend to be genetic and can happen to individuals of all ages and genders. A migraine’s usually lasts at least four hours. Like headaches, migraine symptoms and severity vary from person to person.


What is the Difference between a Headache and Migraine?


Migraines have neurological symptoms where a headache usually does not. Migraines tend to last longer than a headache.  Migraines usually have four stages. The first is the prodrome stage, which can have symptoms of difficulty speaking or concentrating, constipation or diarrhea, fatigue, food cravings, mood changes, and neck pain. The second stage is the aura phase which is described below. The third stage is the headache phase which is usually accompanied with neurological symptoms that are described above. The final stage is the postdrome stage, which usually makes the individual feel ‘hung-over’. Some of these ‘hung-over’ symptoms are fatigue, have changes in moods, or an inability to concentrate.


What is an Aura? 


Some individuals get an aura before a migraine. This may cause you to see wavy or uneven lines, dots, or flashing lights. You might also have tunnel vision or blind spots in one or both eyes. Other symptoms can be visual or hearing hallucinations and a change in smell, taste, or touch. An aura can also be trouble in remembering or speaking a word. An aura can last up to an hour and will go away when the headache starts.


What is a Trigger?


Certain foods, hormonal changes, weather, and stress, can be a “trigger” or reason for a headache. A trigger for one person may not be the same for another. It is important to know your triggers in order to help you prevent headaches. Keeping a headache diary and consulting your doctor are ways to understand what your triggers are.


Does Weather Affect Migraines? 


Drastic changes in weather and outside pressure, hot and humid weather, as well as bright sunshine can cause someone to have a migraines.  However, like other triggers, weather does not cause a migraine for everyone.


Are Migraines Hereditary?


Around 29.5 million people in the United States get migraines and 80% of these people have a family member that gets migraines too. However, scientists do not know if this happens because of their genes or family habits/lifestyle. Either way, a child has a 50% chance of getting migraines if one parent gets them and a 75% chance if they both do.


How to Treat a Migraine?


To treat your migraine you should first understand your triggers and stay away from them. There are also two different types of medications one can take to treat a migraine. The first one is taken when you feel the start of a migraine coming on. The second is a preventive medication that one takes regularly. This medication is prescribed usually when an individual gets a migraine more than once a week. Getting a good night sleep in a dark quite room may help as well as drinking water or caffeine.


Common Types of Headaches:


A sinus headache is contained pain that happens because of an inflamed sinus.  Inflamed sinuses are usually the results of an infection, allergic reaction, or tumor. If the headache is due to inflamed sinus or infection, then there is a good chance you will have a fever too. An x-ray can confirm an inflamed sinus or infection.  Treatment for sinus headaches may be antibiotics for the infection, antihistamines, or decongestants.


Cluster headaches is pain in groups. The pain is normally on one side of the head. A cluster headache is one of the more severe types because symptoms with the headache can be a tearing or bloodshot eye, or a runny nose on the side of the headache. Treatment for this type of headache is prescribed medication and oxygen.


 Tension-type headaches arise randomly and usually happen because of stress, anxiety, fatigue, or anger. Pain in your temples, a tightening feeling around your head, pressure in certain areas, and tightening head and neck muscles are all symptoms of tension headaches. The headache can start in your temples, the back of your head/neck, or forehead. Tension headaches can be treated with over-the-counter or prescription medications, and relaxation training.


A rebound headache happens when a person takes too much headache medication (more than two days a week or more than what label states).  With this type of headache the medication stops working and starts to cause the headache. Rebound headaches are treated by reducing the amount of medication that is being taken. This happens either reducing the medication being used slowly or replacing it progressively with a different type of medication or treatment. Speak with your doctor if you take headache medications more than the label states or more than two days a week.


** It is best to see your primary care physician regularly in order to prevent and treat your headaches. Please call 773-702-0660 to make an appointment at Friend Family Health Center. **

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