If we consider pain syndromes in general, then headache takes an honorable third place among them, second only to pain in the back and joints. Cephalgia, or headache, is one of the top ten causes of disability according to the European Headache Federation (EHF).
Perhaps there is no person who does not know what it is, because 98% of the world’s population periodically feel pain in certain parts (nape, temples) or throughout the head. The International Headache Society (IHS) identifies more than 180 types of cephalgia. In many countries, special institutes have been created to study this issue. In our country, there is the Society for the Study of Headache (ROHGB).
Headache is such a global problem that experts even developed the International Classification of Headaches. In it, cephalalgias are divided into two groups: primary and secondary pains. Of these, about 10% are secondary, the remaining 90% are primary.
Primary headache is an independent disease of the brain, not associated with other diseases. Secondary pain is a symptom of other diseases.
The most obvious and simple sign of cephalalgia is an unhealthy lifestyle. To cope with this problem, you just need to change your habits.
- Sleep at least 7 and no more than 10 hours a day. Sleep deprivation, like too much sleep, disrupts blood sugar levels, and glucose is the most important energy source for brain cells.
- De-stress regularly. This means that every half hour of work you need to take a break for 5-8 minutes.
- Observe the drinking regime. Quite often, the cause of a headache is banal dehydration. So always keep a glass of drinking water handy.
- Give up alcohol. It negatively affects the vessels of the brain, increases blood pressure.
- Move more. This will help strengthen blood vessels, improve blood circulation.
- Sometimes it is enough to drink an analgesic, and the pain goes away. However, if the number of pills taken exceeds the norm (and this is 15 pills per month), it is better to consult a specialist.
Migraine. Throbbing unilateral pain is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Attacks recur and can last from 4 to 72 hours. Often, the so-called migraine aura becomes a harbinger of the onset of a pain symptom. There are photophobia, drowsiness, dizziness, a feeling of foreign odors. Migraine provocateurs can be hormonal changes, excessive physical and emotional stress, and even certain foods (cheese, coffee, chocolate …).
What to do? In the case of migraine, doctors usually prescribe drugs from the triptan group or conduct individual specific drug therapy.
Tension headache (THE). Compressive and pressing bilateral dull pain, not as bright as in migraine. It appears sporadically and can last for several minutes or several days. Accompanied by nervousness, loss of appetite, sleep disturbance, general fatigue. Often aggravated by noise and bright light. During an attack, not only the head, but also the muscles of the neck can hurt.
What to do? It is enough to take ibuprofen or paracetamol. In the case of chronic HDN, the dosage should be prescribed by a doctor.
cluster headache. The most intense. It affects men more often. An attack can last from several hours to several months. However, bright painful periods are replaced by calm. Remission can even last for several years. During an attack, one side is activated: the eye turns red and watery, the eyelid swells, presses the temple, and stuffs the nose.
What to do? During an attack, potent analgesics, oxygen inhalations help. Doctors also recommend taking triptans, subcutaneous injections. For prevention, antiarrhythmic drugs are used.
This is a signal that the body is unhealthy. Secondary headache is always a consequence of some disease. Most often it is:
- vascular disorders of the brain;
- hypertonic disease;
- vegetovascular dystonia;
- eye diseases;
- pathology of ENT organs;
- kidney failure;
- traumatic brain injury;
- oncological diseases;
A severe headache occurs due to oxygen starvation, when large vessels are pinched or breathing is disturbed. This happens with an injury to the neck and spine, during illness with respiratory diseases.
It is not always possible to immediately determine the cause of the headache. Sometimes this requires time and consultation of more than one specialist. But it’s worth it, because life without a headache is at stake.
Some people prescribe drugs for themselves. Because of this “treatment”, gastritis, peptic ulcer, and also induced, or medicinal, headache can develop. It is worth contacting a specialist if:
- headache does not go away despite taking painkillers;
- the pain does not subside for a week;
- the pain increases with a change in body position, sudden movements of the neck, head;
- memory is impaired;
- there is a loss of consciousness.
What examinations are needed
- general and biochemical blood test (to assess the general state of health and primary diagnosis of the disease);
- tests for hormones (to identify hormonal imbalances and determine the cause of the disease);
- tests for allergens (one of the main types of diagnostics in immunology and allergology: the result of the tests can reveal the body’s reaction to irritants – allergens).
- MRI or CT of the brain (informative scanning of the structures of the brain, skull and surrounding tissues for the diagnosis of pathologies);
- MRI of the cervical spine (it is recommended to perform simultaneously with MRI of the brain to clarify data on changes in the bone structure, identify pathology of intervertebral discs, nerve roots, detect additional formations in soft tissues and hemangiomas);
- Ultrasound of brachiocephalic vessels, extracranial vessels leading to the brain (to assess blood flow in the vertebral and carotid arteries).
Based on the history and test results, the neurologist will determine the cause of the headache and refer the patient to an endocrinologist, an allergist, and a psychiatrist.