Don’t take headaches lightly

Migraines, cluster headaches and tension headaches are the three primary types generally seen among patients.
For representational purposes
For representational purposes

BENGALURU: Headaches come in varying degrees of pain - some are throbbing, discomforting and uncomfortable, while cluster headaches are equivalent to a hot iron being plunged into the eye, doctors said. Doctors see two kinds of headaches among patients - primary and secondary. Primary headaches are the ones in which an organic cause is not found and secondary headaches are induced by a particular cause like infection, inflammation, blood clot or trauma.

Migraines, cluster headaches and tension headaches are the three primary types generally seen among patients. “The incidence of headaches has increased due to a person’s ability to recognise them more accurately. It was noted that the inability to cope with situations or daily stress and dietary habits has contributed to the rising incidence.

Any sight of recurrent headaches for short durations, sudden severe headaches, or change in the character of headaches is when a person should consult a doctor,” said Dr Srinivas R, Lead Consultant, Neurology, Aster CMI Hospital. Migraine is one of the most prevalent kinds of headache which may last between four to 72 hours if left untreated, limiting your ability to carry out a daily routine.

A person experiences visual disturbances before the headache phase starts like shimmering lights, zig-zag lines, stars or blind spots. They suffer from throbbing pain on one side of the head, accompanied by light and sound sensitivity, and nausea and vomiting. “Headaches occur more commonly than a lot of other diseases and are often ignored,” said Dr Rashmi Devaraj, consultant and neurologist, at Apollo Hospitals.

“It is important to look out for ‘red flag signs’ like sudden onset of severe headache (thunderclap headache) which could be rupture of a blood vessel in the brain or sudden bleeding. If a person suffers from persistent vomiting or sudden loss of vision, it is a sign of underlying bleeding and requires immediate medical intervention. If a headache lasts beyond two days or increases in intensity, a person must seek medical help,” she added.

Doctors have advised the need for lifestyle modification, following sleep hygiene, stress management, understanding triggering points and ignoring symptoms to avoid headaches as much as possible. In India, where self-medication is rampant, it has also resulted in medicine-overuse-chronic headaches caused by mindless popping of pills to get relief from it. Cluster Headaches People usually ignore symptoms like pain on one side of the head, watery and red eyes, and even a blocked nose, attributing it to fatigue, general sickness, excessive screen time, lack of sleep or extended work hours.

A cluster headache is rare and incurable, occurs in cyclic patterns and can affect any age group. While its exact cause remains unknown, studies have declared it as one of the most painful headaches a person can experience. Though there are no exact statistics, several studies have stated that 0.1% of the population or more suffer from it. Despite headaches being a common issue, clinicians still lack expertise and often misdiagnose cluster headaches as migraine.

Doctors said symptoms of migraine and cluster headache can overlap. Hence, a person suffering from continuous headaches is advised to maintain a ‘headache diary’ to record the period, symptoms and possible triggering factors, which can give doctors a detailed perspective for better diagnosis. Despite similar symptoms, cluster headaches show contrasting qualities.

They follow a pattern which usually lasts 15 minutes to three hours. It can occur seasonally, lasting several weeks. The intensity of the pain is continuous, unlike in the case of migraine, which can last for multiple days with varied pain intensity.

A person can experience swelling around the eye, drooping eyelids, restlessness, excessive tearing and unbearable pain in the face area, head and neck. In a case study, a 26-year-old was misdiagnosed with migraine for eight years and his condition deteriorated to a point where the pain became unbearable and pushed him to attempt suicide. The doctor advised the patient to seek help and not to ignore headache symptoms

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