Understanding and Managing Headaches: A Comprehensive Guide
The fourth and final episode in our neurology podcast series featuring Dr. Juan Lacayo, a neurologist in Monroe, GA discusses headaches. Headaches can be debilitating, and they come in various forms, from tension headaches to migraines. This blog post provides a high-level overview.
Types of Headaches
The two most common types of headaches are tension headaches and migraines. Tension headaches often feel like a tight band around the head and can last for an extended period. They are often caused by stress or poor sleep. Migraines are characterized by severe, throbbing pain on one side of the head, along with sensitivity to light, noise, and sometimes nausea and vomiting.
Migraines can be difficult to diagnose because they come in various forms. There can be an aura that some people experience before a migraine, which can include visual disturbances and difficulty speaking. It’s essential to differentiate migraines from other types of headaches to receive appropriate treatment.
When Is a Headache a Medical Emergency?
It is important to know when to seek medical attention when experiencing a type of headache that you’ve never experienced before, especially if you are over 50 years old. New headaches can be indicative of underlying issues like high blood pressure, aneurysms, or even brain tumors. Symptoms such as severe pain, vomiting, vision changes, slurred speech, or weakness should also be considered medical emergencies and you should seek medical attention immediately.
Treatment for headaches varies depending on the type and severity. Your medical provider can work with you to identify the best treatment approach. Dr. Lacayo highlighted some essential approaches:
1. Lifestyle Changes: Maintain a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and work on managing stress. Subscribe to our newsletter, The Wellness Round-Up, to receive health tips, along with Dr. Plaster’s resource, “Five Tips to Better Health.”
2. Identify Triggers: Keep a headache journal to track potential triggers, such as certain foods. Be sure to note the date and your symptoms as well as the triggers. This can be valuable information to share with your medical provider.
3. Medications: Traditional headache medications like anti-seizure drugs, antidepressants, or blood pressure medications can be effective. Newer medications targeting specific migraine-related chemicals, such as CGRP, have shown promise.
There are a variety of medications available for headaches. Transitioning from traditional migraine medications to newer options depends on individual tolerance and effectiveness. If older medications are causing intolerable side effects or not adequately controlling migraines, switching to newer, more targeted options may be beneficial. It is recommended to not overuse over-the-counter headache medications, as they can lead to rebound headaches. These medications should be used cautiously and sparingly.
There are various aspects of headaches to consider and understand, from identifying types to treatment options. The key takeaway is that if headaches are interfering with your life, seeking medical attention and exploring newer treatment modalities can provide hope and relief. Don’t let headaches be your new normal; there are solutions available to help you live your best life.
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