When we were growing up in the 60s and 70s, we had quick-fix analgesics for headache – APC, Aspro, Phensic, Cafenol etc. There was something unique about them, and how they were advertised in the radio – “take two tablets, three times a day, if symptoms persist after 3-days, consult your doctor “. Why?.
Yes, that is what we are here to discuss. We have to be fair to ourselves. Nobody, I repeat nobody, should endure a persistent, unremitting headache for more than 3 days without consulting a doctor.
Accordingly to Prof M Merck, headaches are among the most common medical problems. Some people have headaches often, while others hardly ever have them. Both chronic and recurring headaches may be painful and distressing, but rarely reflect a serious medical condition.
However a change in pattern or nature of headaches for instance a) From rare to frequent, or b) From mild to severe – could signal serious problem and calls for prompt medical attention. So please see your doctor.
I feel very bad to hear of people who collapsed during social functions and drift into unconsciousness, while being rushed to hospital. Most of them, being people who neglected changes in the patterns of their headaches. Most of their Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), show that they were bleeding intermittently internally due to severe headache, but they did not bother to consult their doctors, hence the fatal consequences – death.
The essence of seeing a doctor when you have a severe headache, is because it is our duty to evaluate you, and differentiate the type of headache you have for ease of treatment.
What types of headache is prevalent in Africa?
We have more than 100 types of headache, but in Africa the most prevalent are 1) -Tension headache. 2) Migraine. 3) -Cluster headache. 4) – High blood pressure headache. 5) -Glaucoma headache. 6) -Sinus headache. 7) – Brain tumor headache etc, etc, etc.
• Most headaches are muscle tension headaches, migraines, or head pain with no obvious cause. Many headaches are related to problems with the eyes, nose, throat, teeth, and ears. Most chronic headaches attributed to eye strain are actually tension headaches: a new, severe pain in or around the eyes may signal, high fluid pressure (glaucoma) in the eye and is a medical emergency.
• Consulting an ophthalmologist may lead to identifying the cause of, and obtaining treatment for this type of pain. High blood pressure may produce a throbbing sensation in the head, but high blood pressure rarely causes chronic headaches.
• Usually a doctor can determine the cause of a headache from the patient’s medical history and a physical examination. However, occasionally blood tests may be needed to detect an underlying illness.
• A lumbar puncture (spinal tap), in which a small amount of fluid is taken from the spinal column and examined under a microscope. This is performed when we suspect that the headaches are caused by an infection for example meningitis.
• A bacterial or fungal infection that inflames the meningitis (the membrane that surrounds the brain and spinal cord), is also a cause of a distinctive, usually acute and unrelenting headache. Such an infection is also marked by fever and other signs of serious illness. A lumbar puncture may also be performed if the doctor suspects bleeding into the meninges.
• Only rarely are chronic headaches caused by brain tumours, brain injuries, or lack of oxygen to the brain. If the doctor suspects a tumour, stroke, or other problem with the brain – Computed Tomography(CT) scanning or Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI), may be ordered to provide images of the brain.
What is tension headache?
• Tension headaches are caused by muscle tension in the neck, shoulders, and head. Muscle tension may result from an uncomfortable body position, social or psychological stress, or fatigue.
• Tension headaches generally begin in the morning or early afternoon and worsen during the day. A steady, a steady moderately severe pain often occurs above the eyes, or in the back of the head; a feeling of tight pressure, like a band around the head, may accompany the pain. Pain may spread over the entire head and sometimes down into the back of the neck and shoulders.
• Treatment : 1) Tension headaches can often be prevented or controlled by avoiding or understanding and adjusting to the stresses that bring them on. 2) Once a headache begins, gently massaging the muscles of the neck, shoulders, and head. 3) Lying down and relaxing for several minutes. 4) Or using a biofeedback may help relieve it.
What is our take this week?
If your headache pattern changes drastically, and persists for more than 3 days despite regular analgesics, that used to relieve it in the past. Consult your doctor.
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