Headaches

Almost everyone gets a headache at some time.

Sometimes people get headaches because they have been over using pain killers like codeine or ones containing caffeine. It’s possible that taking painkillers regularly everyday for a couple of weeks can actually cause a headache as the particular drug wears off- then the person takes more tablets because the headache’s back- a really vicious circle.

Chronic tension-type headaches come as distinct episodes of pain – maybe everyday or just occasionally. The headache may last for a few minutes or for days. It might be on both sides of your head and have a pulsing feel to it. Sometimes the headache’s a minor inconvenience; or it can wreck your daily life. Tension headaches usually get worse as the day goes on.

Migraines can be triggered by stress, or other things like foods, menstruation, exercise. Migraine is usually on one side of your head, maybe spreading across to both sides. It’s common to have nausea or vomiting and a light phobia too alongside the headache or maybe separately from it. You might have an aura- a warning that the migraine headache and other symptoms will be starting soon. Migraines can come on at any time of the day.

Cluster headaches don’t usually last long and are in or over an eye. You could get up to ten episodes a day lasting 15 minutes to three hours, maybe for weeks or months. Your affected eye might water and nose run or be blocked, or you might feel the eyelid droop.

There are serious causes of headache. A sudden and severe headache with vomiting might be a subarachnoid haemorrhage. Headaches that get progressively worse as days and weeks go by and are present from morning to night could possibly be brain tumours or sinus tumours. Meningitis would be considered in a person with a fever with a bad headache and being pretty unwell. A person aged over 50 years old with persistent headaches on one side of their head might have temporal arteritis, a serious inflammatory condition of the artery that can lead to blindness if untreated.

Q1 I’ve taken blood pressure tablets for years. Could it be my blood pressure that’s causing my headaches- I’m getting them nearly everyday.

  1. Your blood pressure is probably well controlled if you take your treatment everyday. Go to see your GP to get your blood pressure checked and highlight your headaches as the reason for your appointment.

Q2. I get lots of headaches these days since I started my new job. Am I best just taking paracetamol or should I get checked out?

A.Keep a diary of your headaches- when they come, how long they last, any obvious triggers. Then avoid those triggers as far as you can and try to modify your stress levels. Cut down or cut out caffeine in your drinks and avoid foods like chocolate, cheese or artificial sweeteners that might be provoking your headaches. If that doesn’t work, go to see your GP and take your diary with you.