A headache is a pain or discomfort you feel in the head. Headaches are a result of disturbances of the blood vessels and nerves in the brain. You may have a headache because of a disease condition, but usually there are no underlying causes for headaches.
You can treat or prevent most headaches with medication and self-care. Get medical attention if your headache becomes frequent, lasts for hours, or prevents you from performing your daily activities.
A headache can range from mild to very serious. Headaches may be caused by any of the following:
- Disturbance of your brain’s blood vessels, brain chemicals or nerves.
- Illnesses such as fever, cold or infection of various parts of your body.
- Stress or depression may cause headaches.
- There is a high chance of having headaches if both parents have a history of serious headaches.
- Overuse of pain medicines may cause or worsen headaches.
- Head injury from an accident or a bump to the head.
- Abnormal growth in the brain, bleeding, or swelling of the brain.
Headache is a very common symptom and usually goes away by itself. However, seek medical help if you notice any of the following:
- The headaches become frequent. Three or more headaches in one week may mean that something is wrong.
- Headaches that last for more than one day.
- The headache keeps getting worse and more painful.
- This pain and discomfort do not go away after using pain medications like paracetamol.
- The headaches affect your daily activities.
- Other symptoms like fever, dizziness, confusion, loss of eyesight, or stiffness of your neck alongside headache.
You can't prevent most headaches, but by reducing your stress and treating underlying conditions, you can reduce the severity and duration of a headache. In migraines and chronic headaches, you may be able to identify your triggers and avoid them. You can also prevent some migraine-type headaches by using a medicine.
- Try to rest or sleep when you have headaches. Resting will relieve the pain.
- You can use over-the-counter pain relievers like paracetamol. However, do not overuse the pain killers because they can worsen your headache.
- Take a cold or warm bath or shower (depending on what works best for you) to help relax and ease the pain.
- Stress management may help you relieve tension or recurrent headaches and may reduce how often you have headaches.
- To treat the headaches, your healthcare provider may recommend prescription-only medicines like dihydroergotamine or beta-blockers.
- Your healthcare provider may also teach you some stress-relieving skills to reduce headaches.
- You may need surgery to remove any growths in your brain that are causing the headaches.
- In some cases, your healthcare provider may prescribe some prescription-only medicines to prevent your headaches (like amitriptyline) or to reduce how often they occur.
A headache usually goes away on its own, but may reoccur often enough to be disabling. Recurring headaches will need treatment especially when they come with other symptoms, including vomiting. Headaches can put a strain on your social and work life.
Try to get enough sleep. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as they can trigger headaches. Include healthy foods like fruits and vegetables in your diet and exercise more often. These good health practices are very important in preventing or managing headaches.