Everyone gets a headache now and then, but not every headache is the same. There are over 150 different kinds of headaches, some mild, some severe, some relatively innocuous, and some that can be a serious health threat. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, headaches and migraines are two of the most common conditions around the entire globe, with up to 1 in 20 adults having a headache every — or nearly every — day, and 1 in 7 experiencing a migraine. That’s a lot of pain.
At NeuroCare of Texas in Frisco, neurologist Dr. Ahmad Saeed Ata provides comprehensive testing and treatment for headaches and migraines, taking advantage of extensive laboratory and imaging facilities to make an accurate diagnosis. Here’s what he wants you to understand about headaches and migraines and the treatments he offers for relieving your pain.
Primary headaches are caused by problems associated with pain-sensitive structures in your head. They may result from chemical activity in the brain or the nerves and blood vessels surrounding the skull. The muscles in your head and neck can also trigger them. Some people have a genetic predisposition toward headaches, meaning other family members may have headaches and pass on a faulty gene. Primary headaches are not a symptom of any underlying disease.
The four types of primary headaches are:
Secondary headaches are headaches triggered by an underlying medical condition and are a symptom of that condition.
Tension headaches are the most common and widespread type of headache, occurring most frequently in women over age 20. The pain is caused by muscle contractions in the neck and head and can cause mild, moderate, or intense pain right behind your eyes, as well as in your head and neck. Many people describe it as a tight band around their forehead. Two contributing factors are poor posture (slouching over your computer or phone) and stress. There are generally no other symptoms associated with them.
Most tension headaches are episodic, occurring one or two times per month on average. According to the Cleveland Clinic, however, chronic headaches affect about 3% of the US population and include episodes lasting for more than 15 days per month. Women are twice as likely to develop tension headaches as men.
Tension headaches can be treated with OTC pain relievers, or if a prescription-strength medication is required, your doctor may prescribe an antidepressant. Other treatment options include lifestyle changes such as learning ways to respond to stressors.
Unlike other types of headaches, migraines are a neurological disorder that, along with crippling pain, causes sensory disturbances, loss of mental focus, and severe nausea and vomiting. Attacks can last anywhere from four to 72 hours. According to the Migraine Research Foundation, migraines are the sixth-most disabling disease in the world.
Migraine pain usually presents on only one side of the head, and often feels throbbing, which worsens with any movement. Neurological symptoms include increased sensitivity to light, sound, and odors.
There are four discrete phases of a migraine, and you can get just one, a combination of two or more, or all of them during an attack. They are:
Unlike tension-type headaches, migraines require separate types of medications to prevent attacks and abort them. Some pharmaceutical options for abortive therapy include triptans, ergotamines, and the revolutionary new anti-CGRP monoclonal antibodies.
Dr. Ata also provides longer-lasting options, like BOTOX® Cosmetic. OnabotulinumtoxinA is made from the Clostridium botulinum bacterium, using the toxin it produces that causes food poisoning. Diluted and administered by a properly trained physician, this FDA-approved migraine treatment works by temporarily paralyzing the nerve fibers that provoke headaches, thereby blocking pain signals from reaching the brain. You can repeat the treatment every 3-4 months.
If you have headaches that interfere with your ability to function, it’s time to come in and see Dr. Ata for an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. You can call the office at 214-618-0808 or schedule a consultation online with us today.