Dear Doctors: I’ve always had headaches, from the time I was a teenager. But now I get them more often – about one headache per week. Is this a warning sign of something?
Headache is among the most common – and ancient – of physical complaints. You would be hard-pressed to find someone who hasn’t suffered from a headache at some point in time.
Mentions of headache in written texts date back to 1200 BC, and treatments over the centuries have included the use of leeches, garlic, oil in the ear, tying a dead mole to one’s head, (no, we’re not making this up), magnets, electricity, psychotherapy, and that universal refuge, the soothing bath.
The majority of headaches are periodic bouts of pain centered in the head and/or neck. It’s not the brain tissue itself that’s sending pain signals – it’s the surrounding tissues, blood vessels and nerves that serve the area. Many headaches respond to medication and lifestyle changes. Some, however, like migraines, may persist despite treatment. Some headaches can be warning signs of larger problems such as blood clot, stroke or tumor. Thankfully, those are rare.
Although there are many different types of headache, most fall into four major categories.
Headaches can also be the result of factors such as eye strain, allergy, hunger or fasting, fever, fatigue, dental problems, lack of fluids, and hangover, to name just a few. The truth is, the subject of headache is vast and extremely complex. And despite many strides forward (remember that dead-mole-on-the-head cure?) science still has more questions than answers.
What signals that a headache may be something to worry about?
These can be signs of underlying conditions such as head injury, infection, tumor, high blood pressure, fluid buildup in the skull, decrease in blood flow, or bleeding in the brain.
This all sounds alarming so let us assure you again that these conditions are rare. However if it happens to you, please be safe and seek immediate care.
Ask the Doctors is a syndicated column first published by UExpress syndicate.