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HEADACHES: Things Aren’t Always What They Seem!

“His resumé says he’s excellent, but in all my years, I’ve never met such a lazy idiot… He should be fired!”

At least that was what the boss thought about this rookie employee.

Strangely too, he’d been complaining of recurrent headaches and tiredness for weeks on end. Never got many jobs done. Most colleagues had easily voted him “Irritating Employee of the Year”.

So everyone was shocked when one day he suddenly slumped at work, was rushed to hospital and promptly diagnosed with a brain cancer-in its advanced stage. His colleagues-and the boss-were drenched in guilt when they realized that they had misjudged this poor fellow the whole time.

 

It got worse for them when news reached the firm the next day that he had died at the hospital. Ten days to his wedding.

This man’s problems had started with just headaches...for which he never sought any help. Only one of his friends was aware of this at all!

For now, it is comforting to know that not everyone with a persistent headache has got a brain tumor.

Brain CT Scan Showing Features of a Tumor in its Right Hemisphere

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Headaches are one of the most common causes of hospital and pharmacy visits, but believe it or not, the headache is your friend!

 

What Is A Headache?

Sometimes, a headache is not a “what”… it’s a “who”: perhaps a difficult assignment; a troublesome spouse; or a boss from hell!

 

 

Medically speaking, “headache” is also known as Cephalalgia and is defined as a symptom of pain anywhere in the head or neck.

 

How Common Are Headaches?

Everyone has had a headache at one time or the other and it is one of the most common health complaints the world over. The World Health organisation (WHO) estimates that almost half of all the adults in the world have had a headache at least once last year!

 

When Should You Be Worried?

A headache is a headache. It happens. But when it becomes recurrent and associated with social problems, rising financial cost, difficulty working and the likes, this kind is known as a Headache Disorder.

 

Physiology of Headaches

Someone once said: “We know more about the moon than we do about our brains.” I believe so. We really don’t know so much about headaches.

But generally, headaches are like an early-warning system which alerts us when something is going wrong in the head or other parts of the body.

There are two main types of headaches: Primary and Secondary.

Primary headaches are those whose cause isn’t exactly known. Examples include migraines and tension headaches.

Secondary headaches are caused by another known disorder in the head or any other part of the body. Examples here are many and include: trauma-both physical and psychological; head injury; meningitis and other infections of the brain; ear, nose and throat infections; tooth problems; neck problems; systemic infections like malaria, typhoid fever.

Certain psychiatric disorders cause headaches as well.

Poorly controlled hypertension is a common cause of headaches among hypertensives.

Some overweight people develop early morning headaches along with a peculiar condition called Obstructive Sleep Apnea.

Here’s an irony: over-use of pain meds for headaches can actually aggravate some headaches!

 

Certain kinds of stroke are heralded by severe headaches and have the befittingly scary name, Subarachnoid Haemorrhage.

 

And on a lighter note, headaches can drop by to inform you that your blood sugar is low and you need to eat!

 

What Can I Do About My Headaches?

There’s a lot of stuff you can do to ease or stop your headaches, but if they keep recurring, talk to your doctor as soon as possible: a proper interview and physical examination will be carried out there, to determine the cause and suitable treatment for the headaches. You may be referred to a Neurologist- a doctor who also specializes in tackling this condition.

Eat! Sometimes a cool glucose drink in the heat of the moment is what that headache needs. And remember: as much as possible, don't skip breakfast...

Get a good massage. Practise relaxation techniques to sooth your scalp and neck muscles.

If you haven’t been binging on pain medications, then some common over-the-counter drugs may help: there’s Acetaminophen (Tylenol®, Panadol®), Ibuprofen and the likes. But do note, that if your symptoms persist for more than two days despite these meds, you really must talk to your doctor!

And now, if your headache is actually a “who”, then go talk to a close pal, or better still, visit your counsellor.

I wish you a headache-free vacation, friends!

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