What is a headache?
A headache is any painful sensation that occurs in the region of the head and neck. It is commonly treated as a symptom rather than a disorder; it is often a symptom of a medical condition like flu. Headache is a more general term for any discomfort originating from the head or neck; it is further classified into specific descriptions like cluster headaches, thunderclap headaches, tension headaches, etc. according to the timing, source of origin and description of the reported discomfort.
Headaches can be a symptom of pretty serious illness, like stroke or meningitis. Here are some red flags to watch for when headaches occur:
- Confusion or trouble understanding speech
- Fainting after headache
- Headache with high fever (102 F or 39 C and above)
- Numbness, weakness or paralysis of one side of the body
- Trouble seeing, speaking, walking
- Stiff neck, nausea and vomiting (not related to flu or hangover)
In such cases, the person needs IMMEDIATE medical help!
Then what is a migraine?
A migraine is a headache characterized by throbbing pulsing pain in one area of the head (as opposed to other headaches that cause pain on two opposite sides of the head) accompanied by other symptoms. It comes from the Greek word hemikrania which means pain on one side of the head. Migraine pain is described as pulsating pain on a side of the head accompanied by nausea and vomiting, blurred vision, diarrhea or increased sensitivity to light, sounds and smells.
Generally, migraines often persist for specific amount of time, from 2 hours to as long as 3 days. And some people with migraines experience an aura (set of symptoms) before experiencing attacks. People with migraine often report much suffering because attacks may not respond to over-the-counter medications.
Migraine sufferers with aura may experience prodrome symptoms one to two days before the actual migraine such as constipation, depression, diarrhea, hyperacidity, neck stiffness and food cravings. For migraine sufferers with aura, the actual aura occurs just before the migraine, described with symptoms such as:
- Visual disturbances; bright spots, flashes of light and various shapes in vision
- Momentary vision loss
- Pins-and-needles sensation in a arm or leg
- Speech and language problems
After the migraine attack some people feel drained of energy or even mildly happy, thought the positive feeling might be related to relief from pain.
Why do headaches and migraines occur?
Aside from being a symptom of other medical conditions, the primary cause of headaches can be attributed to oversensitivity of pain receptors around the head. Some people have genes that make the more prone to headaches. It can be also a caused by medications, alcoholic drinks, processed meat or stress. Regarding migraines, its cause is not completely understood; but some hormonal and chemicals can be factors because migraines are often common among women and triggered by processed foods (chocolate, cured eggs, cheeses, etc.), stress, sleep disturbances and weather changes.
Headaches and migraines often happen with other symptoms such as abdominal disturbances, problems in hearing and seeing, and inability to perform mental work.
Managing headaches and migraines
Headaches and migraines can be a symptom of something, like medical conditions, too much stress in the body or even side effect of medications. Doctors are aware of this and usually manage it by having the patient undergo series of tests and laboratory exams. In this way, the chances of prescribing unnecessary procedures are lessened.
For those who are used to mild headaches and migraines, natural treatments exist to reduce intensity of discomfort and bring relief. Many natural methods are as effective as medications if properly used.
Do you suffer from headaches, migraines, nausea? What helps you in this battle may help others. Leave your comment below – many thanks!