Research findings demonstrate that about 50% of people in the world suffer from headaches every day. In fact, one in every 3 people has a terrible headache at some point in their life. Nevertheless, most headache sufferers are so subjective that they do not go to the hospital to be examined and undergo medical treatment, resulting in more serious and detrimental health effects.
1. Causes of headaches
Headache, a health problem causing severe discomfort to the sufferers, is rooted in various causes. It may come as a sign of an illness or originate from emotional disorders, stress, or fatigue. Nowadays, the alarming overuse of painkillers leads to an increase in headache sufferers and the level of pain. Even worse, the number of free radicals in those with headaches is growing, especially the headache sufferers with stress, according to research.
2. Common types of headaches
Headache is viewed as a symptom rather than a disease. Not only is it diagnosed in diseases related to the nervous system or mental illness, but it also displays in most of the sicknesses in internal medicine and surgical specialties. Headache is the term used to indicate discomfort and pains in calvaria. In fact, primary headaches are the most common, including tension-type headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, and chronic daily headaches.
2.1 Tension-type headaches
This is the most common type of headache, making up nearly 90% of headaches. The sufferers often have unsolved emotional problems and long-term anxiety. This type of headache is common amongst middle-aged people and females rather than males. Tension-type headaches often cause lasting pains, pulsing sensation (the sufferers feel like someone is pressing or squeezing their head), and the level of pain gradually increases with the frequency of headaches. In particular, most sufferers feel pain in both sides of the head with the focus of pain on the forehead, temporal lobe, occipital lobe, the top of the head, or multifocal pain and changing pain locations.
This type of headache is rooted in the vascular nerves, hence the throbbing pains. Particularly, migraine shoots up only one side of the head, leaving the sufferers with the feeling of tense and searing scalp like a burn, accompanied by symptoms including tinnitus, nausea, photophobia, and phonophobia. Currently, around 11% of the world’s population are suffering from migraine, 3/4 of which are females.
2.3 Cluster headache
This is also a type of headache that originates from the vascular nerves, which is common amongst middle-aged and smoking males. In recent years, however, the number of females suffering cluster headaches tends to be increasing. The feeling of pain caused by cluster headaches often comes over the sufferers about 1-3h right after waking up. The pain is divided into clusters, focusing on half of the head, especially behind the eyes, spreading to the forehead and temporal lobes, accompanied by stuffy noses, watery eyes, and nausea.
Cluster headaches usually come over at a specific time, lasting for 3-4 hours and repeating for all week.
2.4 Chronic daily headaches
Headache is identified as a chronic daily headache when it comes repeatedly over 15 days per month.
Chronic daily headaches often go with depression, anxiety disorder, bipolar disorder, phobia, stress and may stem from the overuse of drugs. In most cases of chronic daily headaches, there are no abnormalities detected through neuroimaging. Without medical treatments, chronic daily headaches will cause physical disorders such as stomachache, insomnia, nervousness, etc. On top of that, it may bring about several dangerous symptoms of depression like anxiety or even disposition changes.
3. Adverse effects of headaches
Research shows that all types of headaches are likely to change the brain structure and inflict damage upon the brain after 3 months as a negative consequence of free radicals from the metabolism. Normally, the number of free radicals in our body is quite reasonable, thereby causing no devastating effects. Nonetheless, for those with frequent headaches, especially headaches with stress, chemicals in their brains have metabolic disorders which result in an increase in free radicals, causing damage to their neurons.
In many cases, the germ of potential headaches has been already inside the sufferers then the symptom appears with the aid of favorable factors (stress, emotional or psychological shock, etc.), motivating factors (unhealthy lifestyle, overwork, etc.), thereby increasing free radicals and causing damage to nerves, blood vessels, and the brain structure. Depending on each case, headaches for a long time will lead to depression, anxiety, forgetfulness, memory disorders, lack of concentration, etc. The more serious the headaches become, the more frequently the aforementioned symptoms display. If that is the case, the sufferers may face the risk of dementia or brain stroke, leading to disability and even death.
Of grave concern is the majority of headache sufferers are not aware of the root cause of their headaches and just attack the symptoms in place of eradicating their disease. In terms of medical treatment, the most essential step is to figure out the root cause of the headaches. Indeed, without discovering the underlying cause, the disease will keep recurring and the treatment is not effective. In fact, about 60% of the patients abuse painkillers (with improper and long-term use), making it difficult to treat afterward as their diseases are likely to recur. Remember to follow the instructions on types, doses, and contraindications of any drugs as per prescriptions.
4. Headache prevention and treatment
Normally, headaches are just symptoms, thus can disappear without any intervention. However, in many cases, headaches require emergency treatment. In case of sudden or acute headaches, long-lasting headaches, or headaches with vomiting, fever, and hemiplegia, the patient must be taken to the hospital immediately to receive prompt treatment. For chronic headaches for days or months that cannot be effectively treated with drugs or painkillers, you had better go to see your doctor at the neurology or the general pediatric department. Even worse, in case of lasting and frequent headaches with anxiety disorder or stress, the sufferers should go to the department of psychiatry.
The treatment for headaches typically lasts 3 months and patients can stop taking drugs after their treatment. However, if they just recover partially and symptoms like insomnia or anxiety have yet to be effectively controlled, they may have to undergo longer treatment. In addition to treatment with drugs, patients ought to limit the use of alcohol, avoid smoking and stress, get sufficient sleep as well as eat healthy and balanced diets.