Neurology, a unit of Centre of Excellence for Neurosciences at Vimhans Nayati Super Speciality Hospital is a hub of excellence offering unparalleled care and facilities for the management of various neurological conditions including headaches. Marked by a sharp or dull pain in any area of the skull, headache is a very common problem faced by people of all age groups. Headaches can range from mild to chronic depending upon the area of the skull that they are affecting as well as the underlying cause. It is important to understand that headaches can be triggered by multiple reasons, some of which may require immediate medical attention.
Headaches are further divided into two categories - Primary headaches and secondary headaches.
A primary headache is triggered by abnormalities in the pain-sensitive structures present in your skull, which causes them to become dysfunctional or overactive. This may be a result of unhealthy chemical activities in the brain and associated structures and are not triggered by an underlying medical condition. The problem may even be genetic, i.e. passed down through generations. Primary headaches can also be a result of unhealthy lifestyle factors like excessive alcohol intake, lack of sleep, poor postures, dehydration and consumption of certain foods.
- Cluster headaches – These are marked by brief and periodic episodes of intense pain that is likely to be experienced in cyclical patterns. The patient experiences sudden bouts of headaches followed by a period of no pain at all and the cycle repeats. The episodes, though very short, are extremely painful and marked by symptoms like one-sided pain, stuffy or runny nose, eye-pain, drooping eyelids on the affected side and redness or swelling in the affected eye.
- Tension headache – It is the most common type of headache that is marked by dull pain and pressure around the forehead and the back of your head or neck. Some patients may also experience a squeezing sensation. Tension headaches are often referred to as stress headaches and these are more likely to affect adults. These are further classified as Episodic tension headaches and chronic tension headaches. The former happens not more than 15 days per month whereas the latter exceeds 15 days.
- Migraine – Marked by intense and throbbing pain, usually on the single side of the head, migraine is often accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light and sound. The attacks can last for a couple of hours or even a few days and can prevent you from indulging in day to day activities.
Secondary headaches are triggered by an underlying medical ailment that can activate the pain-sensitive areas of the brain. These can be a result of any of the following:
- Acute sinusitis
- Arterial tears
- Venous thrombosis or clot in the brain
- Brain aneurysm
- Brain tumour
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Structural abnormalities at the base of your skull)
- Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
- Dental problems
- Ear infections
- Giant cell arteritis
- Overuse of pain medication