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Severe and Recurrent Headaches

At some point in our lives, we’ve all felt the symptoms of a headache. Usually, they are a minor annoyance that can be relieved using over-the-counter pain medication. Headaches can be more complicated than most people realize. Different kinds can have their own set of symptoms, happen for unique reasons, and need different treatments.

Once you know the type of headache you have, you and your doctor can find the treatment that’s most likely to help and even try to prevent them.

Symptoms of Headaches

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Throbbing pain or pressure-like pain
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and smells
  • Pain on one or both sides of the head 
  • Head pain that is moderate to severe in intensity, worsened by physical activity/movement 

Causes of Headaches

The pain you feel if you have a headache comes from a mix of signals between your brain, blood vessels, and nearby nerves. Certain nerves in your blood vessels and head muscles switch on and send pain signals to your brain. 

Common causes of headaches:

  • Your environment includes strong smells from household chemicals or perfumes, secondhand tobacco smoke, allergens, and certain foods. 
  • Illness may include colds, infections, and fevers. Headaches are also common with conditions like sinusitis, a throat infection, or an ear infection. In some cases, headaches can result from a blow to the head or a sign of a more serious medical problem.
  • Emotional stress and depression as well as alcohol use, skipping meals, changes in sleep patterns, and taking too much medication can also cause headaches. 
  • Genetics. Headaches, especially migraine headaches, tend to run in families. 

Diagnosis of Headaches

You can start an appropriate treatment plan for your symptoms if your headache were diagnosed correctly. The first step is to talk to your doctor about your headaches. They’ll give you a physical exam and ask you about the symptoms you have and how often they happen. It’s important to be as complete as possible with these descriptions. Give your doctor a list of things that cause your headaches, things that make them worse, and what helps you feel better. 

Most people don’t need special diagnostic tests. But sometimes, doctors suggest a CT scan or MRI look for problems inside your brain that might cause your headaches. An EEG (electroencephalogram) is also unnecessary unless you’ve passed out when you had a headache. If your headache symptoms get worse or happen more often despite treatment, ask your doctor to refer you to a headache specialist.

Treatment and Medications for Headaches

Your doctor may recommend different types of treatment to try. They also might suggest more testing or refer you to a headache specialist.

The type of headache treatment you need depends on a lot of things, such as:

  • The type of headache you get
  • How often do you get a headache
  • The cause of your headache

Some people don’t need medical help at all. But those who do might get medications, counseling, electronic medical devices, stress management, and biofeedback. Your doctor will make a treatment plan to meet your specific needs.

Medications can be used for headaches: