Know Your Headaches
Types, triggers, and treatments for that pounding in your head
Published: Monday, February 10, 2014
Updated: Monday, February 10, 2014 09:02
Now that we are getting further into the semester and getting back into the motion of doing homework and studying for exams, it is not unusual for stress to start building up. And what is one of the most common results of stress, you ask? Yep, you guessed it — headaches.
For Courtney Lawhorn, a senior majoring in finance, this is exactly what causes her headaches.
“I would say that I get headaches twice a week, and they’re always pretty painful,” Lawhorn said.
According to the World Health Organization, there are three major types of headache disorders. These include migraines, tension-type headaches and cluster headaches.
According to the National Headache Foundation, a migraine usually begin as a dull ache and advances to a throbbing pain, usually with a mixture of nausea, vomiting and light and noise sensitivity.
The World Health Organization furthers its definition by saying that migraines are “caused by the activation of a mechanism deep in the brain that leads to the release of pain-producing inflammatory substances around the nerves and blood vessels of the head.”
There are two subgroups of migraine disorders: migraines without an aura and migraines with an aura. Migraines without an aura are the most common and are characterized by the specific features and associated symptoms of a general migraine. Migraines with an aura on the other hand, are a bit more intense.
The NHF explains that an aura is “a manifestation of neurological symptoms that occurs before a migraine headache” including wavy or jagged lines, flashing lights, tunnel vision or even blind spots. It is estimated that only about 15 to 20 percent of people with a migraine actually get an aura.
Usually, migraines begin at puberty, but are found to be most common among people between the ages 35 and 45. They are recurrent, often life-long, and are characterized by attacks.
Migraines are “now ranked by the World Health Organization as number 19 among all diseases world-wide causing disability,” so it is important to take proper precautions.
The second type of major headache disorder is tension-type headaches (TTH). This headache is usually described as pressure or tightness spreading to or from the neck. The International Headache Society declares that this is the most common headache disorder. TTH can also be broken down into two subgroups: episodic TTH and chronic TTH.
One major difference between these two subgroups is that episodic TTH attacks usually last a few hours while chronic TTH attacks are unremitting and are much more disabling.
The WHO states that while episodic TTH affects more than 70 percent of adults, chronic TTH only affects approximately 1 to 3 percent of adults — most of which are women.
Finally, the third type of major headache disorders is cluster headaches (CH). CH is the least common among the three types. According to the WHO, it is characterized by “frequent recurring, brief but extremely severe headaches associated with pain around the eye with tearing and redness.”
Also stated by the WHO, CH commonly develops for people in their 20s or older and affects less than 1 in 1,000 adults –— those of which are most likely men.
To treat headache disorders, it is suggested by the NHF to try over-the-counter prescription medications or self-help techniques such as relaxation. Rachel Wells, a senior majoring in accounting, chooses to take medications when she has headaches.
“I either take Tylenol, Advil or ibuprofen when I get headaches. It seems to do the trick,” Wells said.
Although taking a medication helps when Wells has a headache, it does not mean that it will work for the next person. This is because everyone differs in terms of what triggers his or her headaches. For some it may be stress, and for others it may be hormonal changes, weather or even various foods.
The bottom line is that headaches are preventable. So remember, cautiously monitor what causes them and use the form of treatment that works best for you. In the end, your head will be free of pain and your mind will be open for working on homework and studying for exams.