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  Headache

Headache is medical term for pain in the head. It is also known as cephalalgia or cephalgia. It is one of the most common complaints of local pain.

Headache
Headache


Categories:

The five categories of headaches are vascular, mygenic, cervicogenic, traction and inflammatory. Migraines and cluster headaches are vascular. My-genic headaches are muscular in nature and are known as tension headaches. Cervo-genic headaches begin in the neck. Starting with a neck movement or sustained painful or awkward head position (sleeping funny) it evolves into a headache and ‘stiff neck.’ Traction headaches range from sinus infection headaches to strokes.

Causes:

Headaches have a variety of causes – head injury, tension, dehydration, icy cold food and caffeine withdrawal – to name a few. Life threatening causes are symptoms of serious conditions such as encephalitis, meningitis, cerebral aneurysms and tumors. Over ninety percent of headaches are caused by a harmless condition.

The brain does not feel pain, because there are no pain-sensitive nerves in the brain. The blood vessels of the brain can feel pain and the meninges can feel pain. The meninges are coverings of the brain under the skull. Headaches often result from irritation to the meninges and blood vessels.

Some specific types of headaches are:

• Sinus headache
• Ictal headache
• Ice cream headache
• Thunderclap headache
• Vascular headache
• Toxic headache
• Hemi-crania continua
• Migraine
• Cluster

Diagnosis

Most headaches are harmless. Some headache syndromes can be debilitating and may require treatment. Some headaches are warning signs of serious conditions. Some headaches may easily be diagnosed by a pattern of symptoms. Other headaches may need more tests and procedures to help determine treatment, if required.

While statistically headaches are most likely to be harmless and self-limiting, some specific headache syndromes may demand specific treatment or may be warning signals of more serious disorders. Some headache subtypes are characterized by a specific pattern of symptoms, and no further testing may be necessary, while others may prompt further diagnostic tests.

Diagnosis requires a careful history noted by the physician and an exam. In most cases the headache is tension or migraine, which may be managed under most circumstances. If there is no obvious clinical impression of the headache, a doctor may order a CAT scan of the brain and sinuses or an MRI. Blood tests can be used to confirm a diagnosis as well.

Treatment

Not all headaches require immediate medical attention. Most headaches respond to over the counter medication. For a tension headache the most common treatment is to lower the body temperature. A lukewarm or cold shower can be used to remediate headache pain.

Headaches that occur frequently may require tracking. Patients may be asked to write a headache journal – detailing patterns, pain, medication, food or other external factors that may trigger the headache.

Prevention

Some headaches may be prevented. Migraines may have a trigger that is discovered via headache journaling. Long term use of pain killers in order to prevent headaches is not usually recommended. Rebound headaches are withdrawal headaches that occur when a pain killer is stopped. Caffeine may sometimes be used in low doses to prevent headaches. Herbal and natural preventative treatments that are popular are Feverfew, Magnesium, Vitamin B, and Co-enzyme Q10.

Historical Information

As early as 7000 BC, signs of neurosurgery have been discovered. IN 1200 BC Egyptians had a cure for the headache which required binding a clay crocodile to the skull of the patient. The crocodile had a piece of grain in its mouth and the linen had the names of the gods and goddesses. In 400 BC Hippocrates described the aura symptoms of a migraine. In 1672, Thomas Willis introduced the term “neurology”, accurately describing the migraine headaches and causes – including seasonal changes, family history and diet. The first person to study headaches clinically, in the lab was Howard Wolfe in the late 1930s.

According to Headache Australia:

• there are up to three million migraine sufferers in the world
• prevalence of migraine increases from 12 years to about 40 years and declines thereafter in both sexes
• 23% of households contain at least one migraine sufferer
• up to seven million tension-type headache sufferers (36% for men and 42% for women1)
• nearly all migraine sufferers and 60% of those with tension-type headache experience reductions in social activities and work capacity
• the direct and indirect costs of migraine alone would be about one billion per year

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