Approximately 45 million Americans complain of headaches each year and more than 8 million Americans visit their doctor for complaints of a headache each year, statistics show.
Headaches occur in many people when they are sick, stressed, or not following a healthy diet regimen. They are hard to avoid and difficult to deal with, but, luckily, they can be managed. Next time you’re suffering from one, try a few natural remedies. For instance, lavender and peppermint oil help soothe tension and relieve pain, and certain teas like chamomile tea and gingerroot tea also help with relief.
“Not all headaches are the same; in fact, there are many types of headaches,” Dr. Ryan Harvey, Deputy Clinical Director at House Call Doctor, says. “Headaches may result when there are problems throughout the blood vessels and tissues lining the brain, and even the ears, nose or teeth.” When patients experience a ‘simple headache,’ the blood vessels in their brain may constrict slightly, which is often associated with dehydration, he adds.
“A common ‘tension headache’ is caused by muscular spasms throughout the neck, scalp or shoulders,” Harvey says. “These spasms cause other chemical reactions in the surrounding muscles and tissues, which results in patients experiencing pain messages.”
“Severe headaches can impact a patient’s digestive tract, and may result in nausea and vomiting,” Harvey says. “Funnily enough, nausea is actually caused by a chemical reaction in the brain, not the stomach. For this reason, medications to prevent nausea and vomiting target receptors in the brain, rather than the patient’s digestive tract.”
“Some patients may experience sensations such as “photophobia” when they have a severe headache. To understand photophobia, think back to when you’ve seen a sudden flash of bright light, or heard a loud bang,” Harvey says. “These stimuli can result in momentary pain, which demonstrates an overload of sensory information within the brain.” When patients have a headache, basic stimuli can cause prolonged pain sensations, he adds.
“Headache pain is likely to be an evolutionary adaptation, designed to alert our ancestors when something was not right,” Harvey says. “When our bodies experience any type of pain, we release adrenaline and other hormones. These hormones cause changes in our cardiovascular and respiratory systems, known as the “fight or flight” responses.” These hormonal responses are the reason why patients may demonstrate, a rapid heartbeat, dilated pupils or excessive sweating, when they have a headache, he adds.
“More severe headaches (such as migraines) can cause visual disturbances. An ‘aura’ means that patients may experience a loss of vision, whilst others may see flashing lights,” Harvey says. “These visual disturbances are most likely related to the complex interaction of blood vessels and cells within the brain. The most sinister form of headache occurs when the lining of the brain (meninges) is irritated due to blood, infection or trauma.” These types of headaches can pose a serious threat to the patient’s life and must be treated immediately, he adds.
Are you having difficulty falling asleep? Maybe you have been experiencing trouble waking up in the morning. These could be symptoms of a headache. After a while, lack of sleep may result in sleep deprivation. It’s also important to remember that lack of sleep can also increase the frequency of your migraines.
Although you may not realize it, your headache may be a sign that you are suffering from an infection. For instance, headaches are commonly associated with the flu and more severe infections like encephalitis and meningitis. “Headaches can also indirectly be caused by sinusitis, which occurs when the nasal lining becomes inflamed and irritated, often from an infection,” headache expert explains.
“The pressure in the head from a headache can often lead to sore eyes and affect a person's vision,” says Kyril Raniga, pharmacist at Good Price Pharmacy Warehouse. “The soreness in the eyes is from the pressure created from a headache.”
“As headaches don't clear up quickly but cause pain to the body, people often get frustrated with dealing with the pain of headaches,” Raniga says. “As there is no specific medication on the market for curing a headache, often people will get frustrated waiting for general pain killers to kick in or will not take anything to cure the pain and therefore also be frustrated.”