Headaches are one of the most common health problems that medical professionals treat, but did you know the diagnosis can differ from one person to the next?
Headaches can be painful, irritating, and debilitating. Sometimes, you can make it through the day without a problem, but other times you have to crawl into bed and block out the world.
There are many different kinds and causes of headaches, two of the most common are tension headaches and migraines. Both can range from mild to severe, and can be experienced on one or both sides of the head; however there are some differences that can help determine which kind of headache you have.
Tension headaches are the most common and can make you feel like your head is tight or under pressure; they don’t usually get worse with exertion. The pain may be associated with tenderness of the muscles of the head, neck, and shoulders, and can last for a few hours, or even up to a week.
Migraines are usually described as a throbbing sensation, and physical exertion can make the pain worse. The throbbing is believed to be related to blood flow changes in the brain causing irritation and swelling of the blood vessels.
Unlike tension headaches, migraines can cause nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, smell, and sound. Migraines can be with or without aura; a migraine aura can be any of a collection of neurological symptoms such as numbness, speaking difficulties, vision changes, and tingling, which signal the onset of a migraine.
What causes headaches?
Tension or stress is more likely to cause a tension headache, but there are many triggers for migraines. Certain foods, smells, weather changes, hormones, and a lack of sleep can all cause them.
Diagnosis and treatment
There are no migraine-specific tests, but your GP may run tests to rule out other conditions. It can be helpful to monitor your headache activity by noting your diet, events, symptoms and medication, before and during your headache.
Determining the cause of your headaches or migraines may involve a process of elimination. Sometimes, it can be as simple as cutting out an ingredient from your diet. While there is no overall cure, doctors will often recommend medication or therapeutic intervention.
If you are suffering from severe, ongoing headaches, or are experiencing head pain with unusual symptoms and a high fever, see your GP immediately. They can rule out underlying conditions before helping you to manage the pain.