Causes of Headaches
Headache pain can be caused by several different underlying issues. In order to effectively treat the pain, it is important to determine what type of headache you are dealing with. There are different categories of headaches with some being more serious medical conditions than others. Headache pain varies in intensity from a dull band around the head to the debilitating and intense effects of a migraine. Often, a description of the particular headache pain you are experiencing can put your doctor on the right track to determining the cause.
Specific symptoms accompanying headache pain have allowed professionals to classify headaches into different categories. The most common types of headaches are: Tension Headaches, Migraines and Cluster Headaches. However, the list of headaches doesn’t stop there because headache pain can be caused by so many different things; headaches can be a sign of certain ailments, deficiencies, exposure to toxins, etc… For instance, some headaches are due to inflammations such as sinus headaches whereas others may be the sign of a more serious condition such as meningitis. This is why it’s important to report headaches to your doctor.
In particular, you should report headaches to your doctor if you have frequent reoccurring headaches, headaches that are debilitating and affect your quality of life, change from the type of headaches you normally have, headaches after any head blows, or headaches with any accompanying symptoms such as disturbance to your vision, numbness, or confusion. All symptoms that accompany your headache pain are important to tell your doctor because these too can be indicative of specific underlying medical conditions.
Although some headaches are more serious than others and require medical attention many headaches can be treated without medical intervention. There are several types of headache pain relievers that are common over the counter medications such as Aspirin or Acetaminophen. With tension headaches, doctors sometimes recommend massage therapy, exercise or the use of heat or cold therapy. Sometimes headache pain is due to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) and a quick fix of something sweet is all that is needed. Again, with so many different causes at the root of headache pain the array of treatments available is just as vast. The causes for headache pain ranges from stress to serious conditions of the brain such as a tumor to a subdural hematoma.
Yet, sometimes headache pain is simply due to lifestyle changes. Things like missing a meal or not getting proper sleep or exercise can cause a headache. Dieting can also cause headaches because the body is not getting what it is used to. Changing schedules such as switching to the night shift from the day shift can start the onset of headaches. Reading more, using a computer more or watching a TV more than you normally do can also instigate headache pain. Use of (or overuse of) certain substances can also cause headaches; alcohol, tobacco, and caffeine are common headache triggers.
Headaches Requiring Medical Attention
There are certain types of headaches that require medical intervention to alleviate the pain. Remember: headaches are the sign of an underlying issue. When certain symptoms accompany a headache and certain specific headache pains are present, your doctor will be able to determine the type of headaches you are experiencing, the most likely cause of your headaches and the best treatment options for the type of headaches you have. It cannot be stressed enough that every headache is caused by an underlying issue.
In general, any headache with accompanying symptoms such as the ones below should be diagnosed by your doctor. Tell your doctor if you have headaches that include any of the following symptoms:
- Stiff neck.
- Numbness, weakness, or loss of sensation in any part of your body such as your legs or an arm.
- Vision problems such as sensitivity to light, pain in the eyes or watering itchy eyes.
- Hearing problems such as sensitivity to sound, ear aches or drainage.
- Loss of consciousness.
- Shortness of breath.
- Fever, nausea or vomiting that is not associated with another illness you may have.
The list above is not a definitive list; other symptoms may accompany your headaches than what is shown here. The important thing to note is that anytime you have headaches in combination with other symptoms, you should inform your doctor.
If you are unsure if your headache warrants contacting your doctor there is a wonderful flow chart posted on-line by FamilyDoctor.org that can help you make that call. This flow chart can help you determine if your symptoms require medical attention. To use this chart simply follow the chart arrows as you answer the “Yes” and “No” questions. http://familydoctor.org/online/famdocen/home/tools/symptom/502.printerview.html
Remember, self-diagnosis is not recommended for:
- Sudden onset of severe headaches.
- Headaches that follow a blow to the head.
- Headaches that are different than what you have experienced in the past.
- Headaches with any accompanying symptoms such as confusion, vision problems, etc…
Every headache is caused by an underlying issue. Sometimes headache pain is caused simply by lifestyle changes and other times it is the product of a serious medical condition. Specific types of headache pain, along with certain types of accompanying symptoms, indicate the cause of the headache. By describing your headache pain and any other symptoms you experience with a headache, your doctor can help you determine the cause of and a treatment plan for your headache pain.