Although headaches can be inconvenient, painful and at times debilitating, most are not life threatening. Most headaches can be characterized as tension, migraine or cluster. With tension headaches being the most common. New development of headaches with neurological symptoms such as facial paralysis, vision disturbances, weakness /numbness of an extremity) require prompt medical treatment. In addition, headaches described as the worst headache ever or accompanied by projectile vomiting require prompt emergency treatment.
Tension headaches – symptoms include pressure or tightness around both sides of the head or neck; mild to moderate throbbing; presence of tenderness in the muscles of the head, neck or shoulders. Stress or tension can be present prior to onset of headaches. Individuals who sit for prolonged periods of time, especially in front of a computer screen are prone to develop tension headaches, especially if not utilizing proper body mechanics. Tension headaches are not accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sounds or auras.
Migraine headaches – symptoms include moderate to severe pain that is worsened by light, noise and movement. Some people experience nausea and vomiting. Migraines can last from hours to several days. Migraines occur more frequently in women than men, some women note a change in migraine frequency after menopause. Dark, quiet rooms can help to decrease intensity of headaches. For some people, certain foods can also trigger a migraine.
Cluster headaches – symptoms include sudden onset and reach a peak within a few minutes; deep excuriationing, continuous headache; pain usually located on one side of the face around the eye or temple; eye redness, tearing on affected side, sweating and runny nose. Cluster headaches can begin at any age, usually affecting men more than women. Alcohol and smoking can precipitate headaches.
Treatment of headaches varies depending on the type. If you suffer from headaches, contact your primary care clinician. If you do not have a primary care clinician you can either become a member of Compassion Primary Care, a direct primary care (dpc) practice or schedule a non-member visit.