More than 10 million people in India complain of headaches, making them one of the most common health complaints. It can be caused by simple daily activities such as not drinking tea or coffee, water in the right quantity or can also be a symptom of a major health ailment such as a brain tumour. It can also be an indication of lack of nutrition or declining eye sight.
It is unusual not to have at least the occasional headache. The good news is, most are easily treated, as the majority of headaches are not serious.
Can headaches be dangerous?
Headaches in particular are not a disease. They are co associated with other ailments and is mostly regarded as a sign/symptom. When headaches become limiting and start affecting the vision, concentration level or the daily activities, patients tend to seek advice from specialists. Headache is one of the most common reasons for a patient to see a neurologist. Patients should note that if headaches are accompanied with blurred vision, nausea and vomiting, then you should definitely consult a specialist.
What are the types of headaches?
Headaches have an adverse effect on the daily life. It can affect the routine, level of concentration and at certain times can limit your entire life due to its severity. Headaches can come in episodes or can come and go without any reason. It is important for you and for your treating doctor to know the trigger, reason and cause of the headaches. Weather change, temperature change, strong smells or even loud noises can trigger headaches.
Invariably in a headache the body temperature rises and you experience discomfort. Many times it is co associated with an infection such as flu or sore throat.
They are mainly of two types:
- Primary Headaches: Headaches those are not due to an underlying health problem. These include tension headaches, migraines and cluster headaches.
- Secondary Headaches: Headaches with a separate cause, such as illness, head injury, concussion, or from drinking too much alcohol.
What are the causes of headaches?
- Majority of the times the real causes of a headache is the brain activity that is under stress due to the external factors or life style changes. These cause primary headaches (headaches that are not due to an underlying health problem) – these include tension headaches, migraines and cluster headaches.
- However, another set of headaches may be caused due to other illnesses, head injury, concussion, or from drinking too much alcohol.
- Other reasons are drinking caffeine, dehydration, tension, anxiety and stress, to name a few. The rarer, secondary headaches can occur from irritation or stretching of the membrane surrounding the brain (called the meninges) and the blood vessels at the base of the brain which, when irritated, produce pain.
- Blood acts as a real irritant if it gets onto the outside of these vessels, as seen in a bleed in the brain, while in meningitis, both the meninges and the blood vessels themselves become inflamed.
- Changes in pressure may also lead to secondary headaches.
- Emotional Factors can also cause headaches. The triggers could be stress, depression, anxiety, frustration, let down, even positive excitement.
- Dietary factors such as alcohol, aspartame, cheese, chocolate, caffeine, monosodium glutamate (MSG), processed meats containing nitrates can also trigger headaches.
- Physical factors such as getting too much or too little sleep, too much physical exertion, injuries, skipping meals can be a major contributor to headache.
- Environmental factors such as a glare from the sun or bright lights, changes in the weather, strong odors, smog can also heighten the brain activity and cause headaches.
- Hormonal events such as menstruation, oral contraceptives, hormone replacement therapies, menopause can trigger headaches.
Paras Darbhanga has a specialised team of neurologists and pain experts supported by radiology to diagnose and treat headaches. The unit has a Headache Clinic that provides clinical protocols to manage both – primary and secondary headaches.