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Headache. When should you worry?

Headaches are one of the most common complaints that bring people to the doctor’s office. Headaches are such a common problem that typing “headache” into a Google search results in more than 86 million results. Most people don’t even go to the doctor because of it – they learn to control the pain on their own: some just need to get some rest, others need to drink coffee or eat, and still others need to take mild painkillers such as ibuprofen.

Usually a headache is not a sign of a serious illness, but sometimes it can be a harbinger of a life-threatening condition. Currently, about 300 different types of headaches have already been identified, but, unfortunately, doctors find the true cause in only 10% of patients. Pain of unknown cause is classified as a primary headache. This category includes pain from overexertion, migraines, cluster headaches. Such pain can often complicate daily activities, impair performance, but are not life-threatening.

Migraine, cluster headaches and tension headaches

The most common problem that worries people is stress. At one stage or another, it can affect up to three-quarters of adults. People who experience headaches from time to time are often afraid that this may be a symptom of a terrible disease (usually think of brain cancer). However, as mentioned earlier, there are many types of headaches, and more often than not, they do not pose a serious health risk. Severe pain (migraine), which can disrupt a person’s normal functioning, can be successfully treated. Therefore, if you can not cope with the pain yourself, you should consult a doctor.

Most often, people suffer from tension headaches. In most patients, it is mild, recurs quite rarely, and responds well to simple treatment. However, sometimes this type of headache is particularly severe and recurs even several times a week. This pain is associated with overwork, increased stress, poor sleep. These pains are not life-threatening and a variety of methods can be used to treat them, from hot showers or stress relief through breathing exercises to body massage or pain medication.

When can a headache predict a serious illness?

Here are some symptoms and situations in which doctors recommend contacting the nearest medical facility as soon as possible.

  • age over 50;
    • change in the usual nature of the headache;
    • sharp and severe pain, which was not noticed before;
    • aggravated by coughing, sneezing, exertion or walking;
    • pain accompanied by personality changes or strange behavior;
    • pain along with fever, neck stiffness, confusion, memory loss;
    • pain after a head injury.
    • Pain from previously diagnosed cancer or immunodeficiency.

In any of these cases, you should quickly go to the nearest medical facility or call an ambulance. In no case should you wait until the pain goes away on its own or until the medicine works. The conditions that can cause these types of headaches are often medical emergencies and can be life-threatening. The category of diseases that can cause unusual headaches include: blockage of the veins in the head, stroke, dissection of the wall of the carotid arteries, infectious meningitis (inflammation of the mucous membrane of the scalp), etc.

Often headaches can mislead people. Although the vast majority of them are harmless to human health and resolve spontaneously, a very severe and sudden onset of a headache may be the only sign of a fatal and rapidly progressive disease. In the case of an unusual nature of the headache, it is better not to ignore the symptom.

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