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Symptoms, causes, and treatments for Headaches

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Symptoms of a Headache

Headaches affect most people throughout their lives. Because a headache can be a symptom of hundreds of different illnesses, just having a headache doesn’t mean you’re suffering from a serious condition.

Generally, a headache means you’re experiencing varying levels of pain at one or more spots in your head that lasts for a few hours or a few days at most. Your brain isn’t experiencing the pain itself, which is a common misconception. Instead, your brain will transmit pain signals on behalf of the actual areas of your head which are in pain, which are generally the blood vessels and nerves surrounding your head.

Some people get headaches in the same spot, but a headache can appear on both sides and the front and back of your head.

Typical headache symptoms include:

  • Dull ache
  • Sudden, sharp pain
  • Throbbing feeling

There are several different types of headaches. A tension headache is the most common one people experience.

A migraine is a chronic, severe type of headache that can last for hours and, depending on the individual, occurs several times weekly, monthly, or yearly. Migraine sufferers experience light sensitivity, nausea, severe head pain, and dizziness.

Causes of a Headache

Common conditions that can cause headaches include:

However, if you’re not sick but still experiencing a headache you may be able to blame environmental changes. For example, tension headaches can appear from excess strain of the neck and shoulder muscles, brought on by bad posture at your computer or poor sleeping positions. Environmental factors include eye strain from computer work, not eating enough throughout the day, pollution, bothersome lighting (think flickering fluorescent lights), and cigarette smoke.

The underlying cause of migraines isn’t fully understood known. They could be caused by family genetics. Some people trigger a migraine through exercise, eating certain foods, or during a menstrual cycle. Most sufferers have to learn how to manage a migraine, say by reducing light exposure if they’re sensitive during an episode, than using any foolproof prevention methods.

Should I Be Worried?

Even though most headaches aren’t indicative of a serious underlying medical condition, you should seek immediate medical attention if you have a headache and any of these additional symptoms:

  • Confused feeling
  • Fainting
  • Fever above 102 degrees Fahrenheit
  • New headache feels significantly different than usual headaches
  • Paralysis
  • Speech difficulties
  • Vision changes
  • Vomiting

Likewise, if you experience headaches more frequently than normal, or your pain worsens with each new headache – even without additional severe symptoms – you should talk to a doctor and determine if there’s a more serious condition causing the changes.

Schedule a headache visit online or from our iOS app today.

Find a neighborhood ZOOM+Care clinic near you in Portland, Seattle, Salem, or Vancouver.

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Headache Prevention Tips

Consider these tips to help prevent headaches:

  • Eat! If you aren’t eating enough throughout the day, you could be setting yourself up for a nasty headache. Even if you don’t have a medical condition like hypoglycemia that can cause headaches, eating proper meals will keep your body well-fueled and on-the-move.
  • Drink! Likewise, staying properly hydrated can prevent headaches, and even migraines, in some people. While migraine sufferers won’t stop their episodes entirely, it’s possible that being well-hydrated will help reduce the amount of time of migraine episodes. Generally, drinking enough water during the day keeps dehydration at bay, which is a known cause of headaches.
  • Get your snooze on. Sleep is generally a good thing for your health. In particular, a lack of sleep or poor quality of sleep can increase your exhaustion levels to the point that you cause a headache.