June is National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month (#MHAM). The Coalition For Headache And Migraine Patients’ (CHAMP) website is serving as the central informational hub for the month of June for MHAM. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, there are 39 million Americans living life with debilitating headaches and migraines. Most sufferers experience attacks once or twice a month, but 4 million people have chronic daily migraines. Of those 4 million individuals, women are 3 times more likely to experience this neurological disease. This disabling illness robs individuals of daily activities like going to work, picking up their kids from basketball practice or meeting up with friends for a dinner.
What are the Types of Headaches?
The International Headache Society Criteria or I.H.S. classifies the different type of headaches as primary or secondary headaches. Primary headaches stem from problems with your brain’s pain-sensitive structures. The most common primary headache types are migraine, migraine with aura, cluster, and tension. Secondary headaches are symptoms of an underlying issue.
A migraine is a severe throbbing pain or pulsing sensations, usually on one side of the head, that can last anywhere from hours to days. During a migraine attack, the body can experience nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Tingling sensations in your body, difficulty speaking and visual disturbances, such as flashes of light or blind spots, can happen as well. Research has been done to try and explain what causes migraines, but they are still not fully understood. Migraines involve the blood vessels and nerves inside and outside the skull, which send pain signals to your brain, which is involved in creating the head pain.
Migraine with Aura
This type of headache is reoccurring and strikes after, or at the same time as, sensory disturbances called aura. These disturbances include vision changes, such as flashes of light, blind spots, or tingling in your hands or face. These symptoms usually occur before other migraine symptoms, such as intense head pain, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound.
Pain-relieving medications are taken during migraine attacks and are designed to stop symptoms. Preventative medications are taken regularly, often daily, to reduce migraine symptoms. Other types of treatment include implementing relaxation techniques, drinking plenty of fluids, exercising regularly, and more. Various alternative medicine such as acupuncture and cognitive behavioral therapy can be effective forms of treatment as well.
A tension headache is the most common type of headache and occurs when you feel a diffused, mild to moderate pain in your head. This pain is often described as a tight band around your head. Tension headaches can be classified into two categories: episodic and chronic.
Chronic tension episodes last hours and is considered chronic because they occur 15 or more days a month for at least three months.
Episodic tension headaches can last from 30 minutes to a week and can occur less than 15 days a month for at least three months. It is important to note this type of headache can become chronic.
Tension Headache Treatment
A tension headache can be treated with over-the-counter prescription, preventative, alternative, and lifestyle changes.
This headache occurs in cyclical patterns or cluster periods and is one of the most painful types of headaches. It is hard to get a good night’s sleep because it is very common for this type of headache to awaken you with intense pain in or around one eye. Sufferers can experience pain from weeks to months which is usually followed by remission periods when the headaches stop. The remission period can be months are even years. The good news is that cluster headaches are rare and not life-threatening.
Cluster Headache Treatment
There is no cure for cluster headaches. Treatment focuses on decreasing the pain, shortening the headache period, and preventing attacks. These types of headaches appear in a short period of time, so fast-acting acute medications are required. Preventative treatments are different for cluster headaches because they are used at the beginning of a cluster episode with the goal of suppressing an attack.
- External compression headaches (a result of pressure-causing headgear)
- Ice cream headaches (commonly called brain freeze)
- Medication overuse headaches (caused by overuse of pain medication)
- Sinus headaches (caused by inflammation and congestion in sinus cavities)
- Spinal headaches (caused by low pressure or volume of cerebrospinal fluid, possibly the result of spontaneous cerebrospinal fluid leak, spinal tap or spinal anesthesia)
- Thunderclap headaches (a group of disorders that involves sudden, severe headaches with multiple causes)
When Should You Seek Emergency Care?
Most secondary headaches are rarely a sign of something serious or life-threatening and most can be solved with an over-the-counter painkiller. However, if you have experienced severe or recurrent headaches, you should consult a doctor. A headache could be a symptom of an underlying serious condition such as stroke, meningitis, or encephalitis. If at-home treatment with over-the-counter pain medications are not working, you might consider going to the ER. Wylie ER has medication on hand to treat severe migraines that just won’t go away. You may choose to go to the ER if you are experiencing:
- Headache pain you have never experienced before
- Confusion or trouble understanding speech
- High fever, greater than 102° F to 104° F (39° C to 40° C)
- Numbness, weakness, or paralysis on one side of your body
- Stiff neck
- Trouble seeing
- Trouble speaking
- Trouble walking
- Nausea or vomiting (if not clearly related to the flu or a hangover)
As debilitating headaches and migraines can be, our experienced Wylie ER staff is here to provide you with the utmost quality of services to help you and your family. In the case of any medical emergency Wylie ER is there 24/7, 365 to provide compassionate, concierge-level emergency care to all patients.
Disclaimer: As a service to our readers, Wylie Emergency Room and Nutex Health state no content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinicians.
Nutex Health, Inc supports you and your family’s health. You can depend on Wylie Emergency Room or any one of our concierge-level, freestanding emergency facilities to deliver the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.