Headaches are a common ailment experienced by millions of people worldwide. While most people dismiss headaches as a minor inconvenience, they can often be a symptom of a more serious underlying health issue. The Guardian reports that approximately 1 in 6 individuals worldwide experience a headache on any given day, making it one of the most prevalent health problems.
This blog article will explore the different types of headaches and what they could be telling you. Whether you experience occasional or frequent headaches, it is essential to know what your body is letting you know and take action accordingly. So, if you frequently suffer from headaches, keep reading to learn more.
Prevalence of Headaches in Australia
In Australia, up to 15% of the population is estimated to suffer from chronic headaches, with females being more affected than males. Migraines, tension-type headaches, and medication overuse headaches are the most common headaches reported. These statistics highlight the need for awareness and effective management strategies for headaches, as they can significantly impact an individual’s quality of life.
Types of Headaches: Symptoms and Causes
Understanding your headache type can help you manage and prevent them effectively. These are:
This is the most common type caused by muscle tension or tightness in the head, neck, and shoulders. Symptoms include mild to moderate pain, pressure or tightness around the forehead, and aching pain in the head.
Migraines are severe, recurring headaches that can last hours or even days. Symptoms include intense, throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head, sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting.
These are intense headaches that occur in cycles, with periods of frequent attacks followed by remission. Symptoms include sudden, severe pain, usually around one eye, tearing or redness of the eye, stuffy or runny nose, and sweating on the face.
These headaches occur when the sinuses (air-filled spaces in the skull) become inflamed or blocked, causing pressure and pain around the eyes, cheeks, and forehead. Symptoms include pain or pressure around the eyes, cheekbones, and forehead and congestion.
Hormonal changes in the body trigger hormone headaches and are common in women. These headaches can occur before or during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause. Symptoms include:
- One or both sides of the head experience throbbing pain
- Sensitivity to light and sound.
These headaches occur as a result of overusing pain medication for headaches. Symptoms include:
- Daily or almost daily headaches.
- Worsening headache pain with medication.
- Dependence on medication to relieve headaches.
Do Not Ignore the Signs
Knowing when to seek medical attention for your headache is crucial to prevent further complications. This section will discuss the signs to watch out for when to see a doctor and what to expect during a medical evaluation.
What are the Red flags?
- Sudden onset of the worst headache of your life
- Headache with fever, stiff neck, mental confusion, seizures, double vision, weakness, numbness or difficulty speaking
- Headache after a head injury, especially if it gets worse
Next, when is it appropriate to see a doctor for a headache, covering its frequency, duration, and severity?
- Your headache pattern changes
- Your headaches become more frequent, severe, or persistent
- Over-the-counter pain relievers don’t help, or you need to take higher doses
- You experience side effects from medications
- You have a family history of migraines or cluster headaches
Tests and Diagnosis for Headaches
Getting to the root of the problem in determining the cause and severity of headaches is crucial. It involves a comprehensive medical history, physical examination, and diagnostic tests to rule out underlying conditions. Here are some of the common tests and procedures used to diagnose causes of headaches:
A healthcare professional performs this test to evaluate the function of your nervous system, including your brain, spinal cord, and nerves. It can help identify any abnormalities or problems causing your headaches.
Imaging tests (CT scan or MRI)
These tests provide detailed images of your brain and can help identify any structural abnormalities or lesions resulting in headaches.
Blood tests can help identify any underlying medical conditions contributing to headaches, such as infections, anaemia, or autoimmune disorders.
Spotting Headache Emergencies
When providing first aid, look for specific symptoms that may indicate a more serious underlying condition, such as a stroke or brain aneurysm. These may include:
- sudden, severe headache
- loss of consciousness
- weakness or numbness on one side of the body
- difficulty speaking
- sudden changes in vision
If any of these symptoms are present, call triple zero (000) immediately.
Putting Your Headache to Rest
Identifying the headache types you are experiencing and their possible triggers can help find an appropriate solution. Headaches can range from a small irritation to a debilitating condition that interferes with a person’s everyday life. While most headaches can be managed with over-the-counter pain relievers, there are instances where headaches can be a medical emergency or a sign of a more serious underlying condition, and it’s essential to seek medical attention when experiencing red flags or severe symptoms.
As a first aider, understanding the signs and symptoms of a headache emergency and knowing how to respond promptly can be life-saving. With the proper knowledge and care, headaches can be effectively managed, and individuals can lead a pain-free life. By taking a first aid course with CPR First Aid Australia RTO NO. 21903, individuals can become more confident and capable of responding to emergencies and providing the necessary care until professional medical help arrives.