Are you one of those people who tends to shrug off a headache as just another inconvenience? While headaches are a common ailment and can often be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers, it’s important not to ignore the signs and symptoms of more serious conditions that manifest as a headache.
In some cases, a headache may be a warning sign of an underlying medical condition, such as a brain tumor or aneurysm. While these conditions are relatively rare, early detection and treatment are crucial for the best possible outcome.
Can a headache be different from another headache?
A headache is a common condition characterized by pain or discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck. Headaches can range from mild to severe and can last for a short period of time (such as a tension headache) or for an extended period of time (such as a migraine headache).
There are many different types of headaches, including tension headaches, migraines, cluster headaches, and sinus headaches, among others. The causes of headaches can vary, but may include stress, lack of sleep, dehydration, hormonal changes, allergies, or underlying medical conditions.
What are the other symptoms accompanying a headache?
Symptoms accompanying a headache can vary depending on the type and severity of the headache. Common symptoms may include:
- Pain or pressure in the head, scalp, or neck
- Tenderness or sensitivity in the scalp, neck, or shoulders
- Dull, aching pain that can range from mild to severe
- Throbbing or pulsating pain that may worsen with movement or physical activity
- Nausea or vomiting
- Light and/or sound sensitivity
- Blurred vision or changes in vision
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Difficulty concentrating or confusion
- Feeling tired or run down
When should I worry about a headache?
You should consider seeking medical attention if you experience any of the following symptoms with your headache:
- Sudden onset of the worst headache of your life
- Headache accompanied by a stiff neck or fever
- Headache after a head injury
- Confusion, difficulty speaking or understanding, weakness, or numbness
- Headache with vision changes or trouble seeing
- Headache that comes on suddenly and is very severe
- Headache that persists or worsens over time
- Headache that is accompanied by a seizure
- Headache that is accompanied by vomiting or nausea
If it’s not just a headache, what can it possibly be?
Headaches can be a symptom of many different conditions, including:
- Migraine: a type of headache that typically causes severe pain, often on one side of the head, and is accompanied by other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound.
- Tension headache: the most common type of headache, typically caused by stress or tension in the muscles of the head and neck.
- Cluster headache: a type of headache that is characterized by intense pain on one side of the head and can occur in clusters or cycles over a period of weeks or months.
- Sinus headache: a type of headache caused by inflammation or infection of the sinuses.
- Rebound headaches: headaches that occur as a result of overuse of pain relievers.
- Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorder: a condition that affects the joint that connects the jawbone to the skull, often causing headaches and facial pain.
- Infection: such as meningitis, encephalitis, and Lyme disease, can cause headaches as a symptom.
- High blood pressure: can cause headaches, particularly at the back of the head.
- Brain tumor: can cause headaches, particularly when the tumor is growing and causing pressure on the brain.
While headaches can be a symptom of many different conditions, they are often not the only symptom. If you are experiencing persistent or severe headaches, or if your headaches are accompanied by other symptoms, you should seek medical attention to determine the underlying cause of your symptoms.
Who should you consult about your headache?
The type of doctor you should consult for a headache can depend on the frequency, duration, and severity of your symptoms, as well as other medical conditions you may have. In general, you can start by consulting with your primary care physician. They can help evaluate your symptoms, perform a physical exam, and recommend any initial tests or treatments.
If your headaches are severe, persistent, or accompanied by other symptoms, your primary care physician may refer you to a neurologist or headache specialist. These doctors specialize in the evaluation and treatment of headaches and related conditions.
Other specialists that may be involved in the evaluation and treatment of headaches can include an otolaryngologist (ENT doctor) for sinus-related headaches, a dentist for TMJ-related headaches, or an ophthalmologist for headaches related to eye problems.
If you are unsure which type of doctor to see, it’s always a good idea to start with your primary care physician. They can help guide you through the evaluation process and refer you to other specialists as needed. Know more about Asian Hospital’s headache treatments by calling our Asian Brain Institute at (02) 8771 9000 local 8444.
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- National Headache Foundation. (n.d.). About headaches. Retrieved from https://headaches.org/about-headaches/
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- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2020). Headache information page.
- Retrieved from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Headache-Information-Page
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- American Academy of Neurology. (2019). AAN guideline on the evaluation and management of concussion. Retrieved from https://www.aan.com/Guidelines/Home/GetGuidelineContent/906
- National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. (2021). Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) disorders. Retrieved from https://www.nidcr.nih.gov/health-info/tmj
- American Academy of Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery. (2020). Sinus headache. Retrieved from https://www.enthealth.org/conditions/sinus-headache/
- American College of Radiology. (2019). ACR appropriateness criteria headache. Retrieved from https://acsearch.acr.org/docs/71032/Narrative/
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