Headaches can be, and pardon the pun, a real pain, especially when they are recurring and are increasing in intensity over a period of time.
According to a number of studies, women are slightly more prone to headaches than men especially when factoring in hormonal changes. Below are different types of headaches women have and treatments suggested for each of them.
Also commonly known as stress headache, this type can be chronic (recurring) or episodic (happens once or twice a month). Stress is a major factor that triggers head pain, which is mainly localised on the forehead or concentrated on the area right above the nasal bridge. The pain ranges from moderate to severe and can be accompanied by other symptoms, such as dizziness and/or nausea. Most sufferers describe the pain as either constant or radiating.
There are a number of causes why women get tension headaches. Most common of which include long hours at work, emotional stress, lack of sleep, depression and hunger.
Treatment options vary depending on the severity of pain as well as the frequency of attacks. Rest and proper diet (eating on time is always recommended), 7-8 hours of sleep every night and relaxation exercises (yoga and meditation) are among the most effective treatments and preventive measures.
While extremely rare, Cluster Headaches are classified as the most severe kind. People who suffer from cluster headaches often hit at least 8 or 9 in the pain scale, are mostly unable to sit still, and can’t concentrate on even the most common tasks, such as walking or speaking. In some cases, the pain is too debilitating that patients are sedated in order to prevent complications.
When these headaches start, the usual indicator is eye pain (shooting and tearing sensation). The pain is almost always exclusively on one side of the head but it can radiate to the face and nose area of the same side. The duration of the pain can last anywhere from 30 minutes to about an hour and a half. However, in severe cases, the pain can last up to three straight hours especially if/when pain medication has not been administered.
The exact cause of cluster headaches has yet to be determined but clinical studies have identified several triggers, such as the following:
1. Alcohol Consumption
Those who suffer from cluster headaches are more sensitive to alcohol so even one or two drinks can trigger an episode.
2. Cigarette Smoking
Cigarettes contain nicotine, which is a vasoactive substance that affects one’s brain. Nicotine has the ability to change the size of the blood vessels, making one more prone to headache.
Street drugs that are most likely tainted with toxic materials can cause cluster headaches or make them worse over time.
4. Toxic Chemicals
Exposure to certain substances, such as paint fumes (lead-based), toners, solvents, etc., can cause headaches or make the attacks more frequent.
Most neurologists recommend that women who suffer from cluster headache follow a regimen that includes complete avoidance of alcohol, drugs, and cigarette smoking (even second-hand). In addition, getting adequate sleep and keeping calm would help in preventing the recurrence of headaches. Depending on the pain level, NSAIDs such as Aspirin or Ibuprofen may be taken.
These are painful headaches that are often accompanied by dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light.
There are two major classifications of this condition, namely:
Migraine without Aura
This type of migraine is more common of the two. Migraine without aura has a sudden onset and is usually isolated to one side of the head (much like cluster headaches) and the pain is described as constant and/or throbbing. The headache always occurs without any prior warning or symptom but the duration is generally shorter compared to migraines with aura.
Migraine with Aura
Also known as Complicated Migraine, this one comes with visual disturbances as well as other neurological symptoms, such as clumsiness, slurred speech and sometimes even partial temporary blindness. Unlike migraines without aura, these headaches are preceded by a number of indicators, such as sudden loss of appetite, confusion, difficulty concentrating, reduced peripheral vision and increased sensitivity to light.
Migraines have a number of triggers, such as the following:
Stress itself doesn’t really cause headaches. The emotions surrounding the stress do. When we are stressed, we tend to feel worried, anxious, excited, whatsoever and those trigger our brain to release some chemicals that affect our blood vessels, making them tensed. The tension then provokes migraine to surface.
2. Lack of Sleep
Sleep is very important to be healthy, and it’s been proven by different studies. If you don’t get enough sleep, you become prone to different health issues, just like migraine. But don’t sleep too much, it’s also unhealthy. Avoid having irregular sleeping patterns too. It will disturb your brain and your headache will just become worse. Just stick to 8 hours of sleep.
3. Certain Foods
Beans, olives, chili peppers, dried fruits, avocados, red plums, yeast bread, processed meats, aged cheeses, sour cream, whole milk, chocolate, anything with monosodium glutamate (MSG) are among the foods that trigger headache. Might as well don’t consume them too much to avoid having to deal with migraine.
We all know it that if we consume alcoholic drinks too much, hangover will be our company in the next few hours. While migraine sufferers aren’t that much sensitive to alcohol compared to those with cluster headache, studies showed that alcohol is a migraine trigger.
Apart from the Nicotine content, which disturbs the brain’s stability, the smoke coming from the cigarette can irritate nose and throat, which may stress you out!
6. Artificial Sweeteners
Artificial sweeteners don’t actually trigger migraines. Blame the aspartame content, it’s the culprit! So don’t deprive yourself of sweets. Just make sure that you choose sweeteners that don’t have aspartame.
Treatment for migraines range from non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs to pain medications such as Codeine, Hydrocodone, Oxycodone, etc. Anti-abortive drugs are also known to be effective in managing migraines especially for recurring attacks. In most types of headaches, rest and better lifestyle choices are recommended for patients.