Headaches are one of the most common neurological conditions seen by neurologists. It can be the symptom of a wide range of causes both benign and serious of the head and neck which e usually tend to neglect or ignore. Majority of resort to self medication and even ignore the prolonged symptoms.
Headaches also have types:
For the common man the reasons for a headache could be many, however medically they are of two types- Primary & Secondary.
Primary Headaches are benign, recurrent headaches and its etiology is not well understood. 90% of all headaches are primary headaches and they are classified according to their clinical pattern. The most common primary headache disorders are migraine, tension-type headache and cluster headache.
- Migraine Headache: They include throbbing pain with nausea, photophobia (sensitivity to light) or phonophobia (sensitivity to sound).
- Tension-Type Headache: They include a pressure like situation around the head.
- Cluster Headache: They include severe pain of short durations (15–180 minutes) around one eye, with autonomic symptoms (tearing, red eye, nasal congestion) and it can occur at the same time every day.
One should note that while primary headaches may cause significant daily pain and disability, they can not be life threatening.
A Secondary Headache is a symptom of an underlying disease that can activate the pain-sensitive nerves of the head. Most commonly it is due to meningitis, trauma, subarachanoid hemorrhage, brain tumor, and hypertension. They are also responsible for prolonged pain
The key to distinguish secondary headaches from primary headaches lies in the clinical symptoms along with other associated features and abnormalities on physical examination. There are certain warning signs “RED FLAGS” which indicate a dangerous secondary headache. These include:
- First or abrupt onset
- Worst headache of life
- Headache beginning at unusual ages (≤5 years old ≥50 years old)
- Onset with Seizure or Syncope
- Abnormal physical examination
- Presence of systemic illness (fever, weight loss, HIV, malignancy).
Consult a Specialist:
It is necessary to seek neurologist opinion as early as possible for better care and treatment. Don’t resort to self medication in case your headaches are leading to prolonged illness and disability.