Headaches and migraines affect most people at some point in their lives, but if you’re unlucky enough to suffer from recurring pains in your head, it can have a seriously detrimental effect on your life and even limit your ability to perform everyday functions.
While normally most headaches aren’t particularly a cause for concern, on-going problems can be a sign of other, far more significant issues and may require additional attention. Indeed, some causes of headache can be life-threatening, so you should consult a doctor if you’ve been suffering long-term headaches or migraines.
While most headaches aren’t a cause for concern, on-going problems can be a sign of other, far more significant issues and may require additional attention.
The two types of headache – primary and secondary
As mentioned, most headaches – while annoying – are relatively benign, and most will pass fairly quickly. In general, there are two types of headache – classified as primary and secondary.
Primary headaches – a rough definition
Primary headaches are not normally a sign of any underlying disease. They also tend to pass relatively quickly and are caused by problems with overactivity or over-sensitivity in pain-sensitive areas of the head.
Primary headaches are typically caused by chemical activity in the brain or by sensitivity in the nerves and blood vessels around the skull, or even by the muscles in your neck or head. Often, primary headaches are caused by a combination of these factors, which can result in more pain.
Unfortunately, some people also possess certain genes that make them more prone to this type of headache. Common types of primary headaches include migraines (sometimes with aura) and cluster or tension headaches.
Often, primary headaches are caused by lifestyle factors, including:
Stress – Stress is well-recognized as being a prevalent constituent factor for many headaches.
Bad posture – As mentioned, headaches can be caused by the neck or head muscles, so poor posture can be a surprisingly common cause of problem headaches.
Problems sleeping or changes in sleep patterns – Insomnia or disturbed sleep patterns are among the leading causes of headaches.
Alcohol – It should go without saying that drinking can cause headaches, part of the condition most people refer to as a hangover.
Some foods can sometimes cause headaches – If you’re suffering mystery headaches, seemingly for no reason, it might be an idea to adapt what you eat. Processed meats and foods which contain nitrates can cause issues that can manifest themselves far beyond your gut. If you think you might be suffering head or stomach problems from your food, try using online services like those offered by https://www.intolerancelab.co.uk to identify potential problem areas or foods which might be causing you issues.
Secondary headaches – in many cases, a sign of considerably more serious problems
Secondary headaches are mostly caused by conditions that could pose significantly more serious problems and are potentially a cause for concern. As a rule of thumb, if you have recurring headaches (often accompanied by other conditions), you should seek medical advice. Unfortunately, it’s quite hard to differentiate between secondary and primary headaches – however, long-lasting issues can be a good indicator, and you should go to a doctor if you have persistent problems.
There are several causes of secondary headaches, including serious diseases that can affect the pain-sensitive areas of the head. These include sinusitis, blood clots, aneurysms, tumors, carbon monoxide poisoning, coronavirus, dehydration, glaucoma, flu, hematoma, meningitis, pseudotumor cerebri, stroke, or toxoplasmosis (among many others). If you’re in any doubt, don’t take chances – attend a physician.
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