Understanding Headaches

Understanding Headaches

By: Muhammad Salman Siddiqi, MD, Neurologist, TMH Physician Partners, Neurology Specilaists

A headache is a symptom of pain, uncomfortable feeling and sensation anywhere in the region of the head or neck, which affects millions of people’s quality of life all over the world. People are not only missing time from work and school due to headaches, but their personal lives, relationships and employment are all affected. Additonally, people who experience severe headaches are also at an increased risk of depression.

Common causes of headaches may include high blood pressure, eye site weakness, glaucoma (high pressure inside the eye), sinusitis, fatigue, sleep apnea and sleep deprivation, stress, anxiety, viral infections, common colds, rapid ingestion of a very cold food or beverage and dental issues. Other causes of headache need immediate diagnosis and treatment such as:

  • Head injury.
  • High intracranial pressure (high pressure of fluid circulating around brain and spinal cord) either a result of trauma, tumor or mass in the brain or condition.
  • Infection like meningitis and encephalitis.
  • Intracranial hemorrhage (bleeding inside the skull or brain) like epidural, subdural, subarachnoid or ruptured aneurysm, arteriovenous malformation, intraparenchymal bleed.
  • Brain tumor or mass.
  • Temporal arteritis.
  • Acute closed angle glaucoma.
  • Dural sinus thrombosis.

With more than 200 types of headaches, some can be harmless and others can be life threatening. Here are the most common types of headaches:

  • Migraine Headache
    • Common Migraine Headache without aura (warning signs may include nausea, vomiting or more)
    • Classic Migraine Headache with aura (warning signs may include dizziness, ringing in your ears, light sensitivity or more)
    • Hemiplegic Migraine
  • Tension Headache
  • Cluster Headache
  • Trigeminal Neuralgia
  • Occipital Neuralgia
  • Paroxysmal Hemi-crania Continua
  • Referred Headache from Temporomandibular Joint Inflammation (TMJ)
  • Short Lasting Unilateral Neuralgiform Headache (SUNCT)
  • Chiari 1 Malformation Headache
  • Headache Secondary to CSF Leak or Intracranial Hypotension
  • Indomethacin Responsive Headache
  • Primary Stabbing Headache
  • Primary Cough Headache
  • Primary Exertional Headache
  • Primary Sex Headache
  • Hypnic Headache

Treatment of a headache depends on the underlying cause. Although relief may be provided by over the counter pain or narcotic pain medication, this only masks symptoms and could result in a delayed diagnosis. This delay, depending on the type of headache you may have, could result in long-term negative side effects so it’s imperative that you consult your primary care physician to determine if specialty care is needed by a neurologist.

To learn more about headaches and treatment available at Tallahassee Memorial HealthCare, visit TMH.ORG/Neuro or call TMH Physician Partners, Neurology Specialists at 850-431-5001.

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