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Frequent Headaches - Causes and Treatments

Aug 17, 2007
There are many reasons for frequent headaches: stress, insomnia, tiredness, poor eating habits and even illness. Before you can determine how to treat your next headache, you first have to figure out its cause.

Most headache sufferers report a set of "triggers," which precipitate attacks, or periods of prolonged headache pain. These triggers can be as simple as a stressful afternoon, or sudden changes in the weather, to certain perfumes and odors, to hormone changes, and seasonal allergies or even infection.

The most common, or the tension-style headache,is experienced by nearly 80% of adults periodically throughout their lives. A nonspecific type of headache, with no vascular or migraneous cause, it is not organic in nature. Believed to be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain, this common type of headache features a vice-like grip of pain throughout the forehead and temples. It responds fairly well to over-the-counter analgesics when taken sporadically.

More severe types of headaches such as migraines and clusters, are harder to diagnose and treat, since their causes vary from person to person. While more women than men experience migraines (which may be due to changing hormone levels in the body), the opposite is the case for cluster headaches, with 90% of sufferers being male.

Migraines are characterized by a throbbing head pain in one side of the face or head. They are usually accompanied by other symptoms including nausea, cold hands, and sensitivity to light and sound. Treatment includes a daily regiment of preventative medications as well as relaxation and stress-relieving techniques. Most sufferers report a decrease in migraines when they are able to pinpoint and avoid certain triggers.

Clusters, or groupings of headaches that are experienced on a daily basis for days, weeks or even months may be experienced by as many as one million sufferers in the United States alone. Also referred to as histamine, cephalagia, red or Horton's headaches, this type of headache starts suddenly, with little or no warning, and can last up to an hour, with up to 4-6 of these attacks in a single day. Antidepressants have been used successfully to treat this syndrome, even when depression was not a factor.

Headaches due to hormones may account for the frequency of most female-generated headaches, with attacks coming before, during and after menses, while pregnant or undergoing menopause. Sudden spikes and drips in estrogen have been linked to the onset of both mild headaches and severe migraines. Hormone replacement therapy has been useful in treating post-menopausal headaches. Others can try basic analgesics to lesson the pain. If symptoms become severe talk to your doctor about other treatment options now available.

Everyone experiences a headache from time to time, but chronic, repetitive headaches that interfere with normal activities should be discussed with a physician. Help is available, once a proper diagnosis is made.
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