It’s estimated that between 50 and 75 percent of people in Medford aged 18-65 have experienced a headache in the past year. Though most are a nuisance, some headaches are more debilitating than others. We’ve gathered information on 10 common headaches to help you figure out how to treat them.
Many people think a headache is simply that: an ache in the head. While technically true, symptoms can affect different areas of the head and vary in intensity. Nobody is really sure what causes most headaches, though there are plenty of theories.
If you’re looking for headache relief in Medford, pay attention to certain aspects of your condition. This information will help your ear, nose and throat doctor diagnose and treat your headaches.
The most common headaches in Medford are:
- Tension headaches. This type of headache is characterized by unrelenting pain or pressure in the head or neck. There are rarely any other symptoms present. Experts suspect they are the result of neck and scalp muscle contractions in response to stress. Tension headaches should respond to treatment with over-the-counter pain relievers like aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen.
- Cluster headaches. Cluster headaches occur in groups or clusters and occur with little or no warning. They can cause severe pain, usually confined to one side of the head. You may experience watery eyes, nasal congestion and runny nose with these headaches. They often occur regularly, multiple times a day, for extended periods before going away for months or years at a time. You may feel restless and have an urge to lie down. There is no cure for cluster headaches, which might have a genetic component, but certain triggers such as alcohol, cigarettes, high altitudes and foods may contribute to their sudden onset.
- Sinus headaches.Inflamed sinuses resulting from infection may cause pain and pressure, nasal congestion, watery eyes and fever. Sinus headaches are similar to migraines, but often include a green or red-tinged nasal discharge. They usually go away on their own, but if you are experiencing frequent, severe headaches, your doctor might prescribe antibiotics.
- Migraine headaches. Migraines are severe headaches that meet the following criteria:
- They must have occurred at least five times previously,
- They last between 4-72 hours,
- They are accompanied by at least two of the following:
- One-sided pain, throbbing pain, moderate-to-severe pain, and pain that interferes with, is worsened by, or prohibits routine activity
- One of the following symptoms:
- Nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and/or sound
About 20 percent of migraine sufferers experience an aura – a visual distortion or numbness in the hand prior to the headache’s onset. Triggers include hormones, stress and certain sleeping or eating patterns. Women are three times more likely to experience migraines than men. There may be a genetic component.
- Rebound headaches.Overuse of pain medication such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen or prescription drugs can cause a rebound headache. Experts believe taking too much medication shifts the brain into an excited state that triggers additional headaches. An alternate theory holds that they are a symptom of withdrawal that occurs when levels of medicine in the bloodstream drop.
- Caffeine headaches.Anybody who has ever skipped their daily coffee has probably paid for their transgression later with a caffeine headache. This is a symptom of withdrawal when the body has been denied a substance it depends on. Caffeine headaches are most common in people who drink five or more cups of coffee a day.
- Ice cream headaches.Also called brain freeze, ice cream headaches are marked by sharp, shooting pain in the head that occurs while eating ice cream or enjoying other cold foods or beverages. It is speculated that the sudden cold sensations on the roof of the mouth might increase blood flow to the brain’s arteries, causing pain. Discomfort usually subsides after a few minutes; try sipping warm water to speed along the process.
- Early-morning headaches.Headaches that occur when you wake up could be a result of medications wearing off over night, leading to a rebound effect. Early-morning headaches are especially common in people who suffer from sleep apnea.
- Chronic daily headaches.If you experience headaches at least 15 days per month for more than three months, your condition is considered chronic. Chronic daily headaches can be caused by a variety of factors including overuse of pain medications, head injuries, meningitis or tumors. They could also be the result of improperly-functioning pain signals in the body. Possible treatments include antidepressants, beta-blockers, anti-seizure medications and Botox injections.
- Menstrual headaches.Women experiencing a sudden drop in estrogen associated with an impending period might end up with a migraine or PMS-related headache. Over-the-counter pain medications and magnesium supplements can help relieve the pain associated with menstrual headaches.
Fortunately, headaches are rarely serious, but if they develop suddenly and are extremely painful, or are accompanied by fever or a sharp rise in blood pressure, see a doctor immediately. This is especially important if you have recently suffered trauma to the head. If headaches are accompanied by vision and speech problems, neck pain, dizziness and muscle weakness confined to one side of the body, call 911.
For more information on headaches and treatment solutions, contact a Medford ENT specialist.