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When A Headache Is More Than Just A Headache

When A Headache is More Than Just A HeadacheHeadaches are among the most common health complaints, and they are rarely signs of serious illness. Unfortunately, headaches can also be symptoms of major medical problems, such as an aneurysm, meningitis or brain cancer. This means it’s important to know how to tell the difference between simple headaches and those caused by these other issues. Here’s a deeper look at the common causes of headaches, signs that you should get medical attention for a headache and the types of headaches associated with the most feared causes.

Common Headache Types
Tension headaches, migraines and cluster headaches are the most common types of headaches. Tension headaches are characterized by mildly intense pain on both side of the head and a lack of either light sensitivity or vomiting. When migraines occur, patients are likely to have pain on one side combined with light sensitivity, nausea and vomiting. Cluster headaches, the rarest of these three types, involve excruciating but quickly dissipating pain on one side of the face and head, often causing the nose and eyes to water.

Signs Treatment Is Necessary
Headache sufferers should seek medical attention if they experience head pain different from what they have experienced in the past. For example, people should watch for headaches that are far more painful than past ones, headaches that are accompanied by nausea and vomiting and those that are worsened by exertion. A variety of symptoms can highlight possible medical problems when they occur alongside headaches. For example, neurological changes, neck stiffness, seizures and fever are a few common signs of a headache that is more than just a headache. Finally, a headache that happens after a hit to the head may signify brain trauma and should be treated immediately.

Aneurysm
Aneurysms, which are essentially blood vessel blisters, can be extremely serious and are among the most feared headache causes. Thunderclap headaches, which involve extreme head pain that begins suddenly, may be a sign of aneurysm. This type of headache can actually have a number of major causes and should always be investigated right away.

Meningitis
Bacterial meningitis can cause headache accompanied by fever, vomiting and general feelings of being unwell. A meningitis headache may be preceded by cold extremities, pallor, painful limbs, stiff neck, confusion and light sensitivity. Although bacterial meningitis is rare, its ability to kill within hours makes swift diagnosis essential. Patients who have cancer or AIDS should be especially watchful for these symptoms because they have an increased risk of bacterial meningitis.

Brain Tumor
Brain tumor may be the most feared cause of headache. In fact, brain tumors ranging from common gliomas to rarer pineal tumors can cause headaches as the tumors grow and put pressure on the brain. Most people notice neurological symptoms, such as limb weakness, visual or auditory changes and cognitive problems before a tumor has become large enough to cause headaches. Nausea and vomiting may also occur with severe intracranial pressure. As with other serious headache causes, patients should be wary of headaches accompanied by strange symptoms or different in severity or character compared to past headaches.

Headaches can have serious causes, but they are most often caused by tension, allergies or migraines. However, the potentially deadly nature of aneurysm, meningitis and brain tumors makes it important for everyone to watch for the signs listed above. When these problems are caught early, patients are more likely to recover successfully.

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  1. Isabel van Sunder says:

    Very good information on the types of headaches. It is good to know.

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