(NEWS-PRESS) - Life can be a pain at times, literally. Every day, one in 20 adults suffers a headache. Stress is usually to blame, but headaches can be caused by a number of things such as dehydration, hormones or environmental factors.
There are many different types of headaches, and while most are nothing to worry about, you should be aware of symptoms that could signal a serious problem.
• Sinus headaches are common and typically accompany allergy symptoms (sneezing, runny nose). Pressure behind the eyes and in the forehead worsens when the head is tilted forward. Over-the-counter medications will relieve symptoms, but the underlying allergy needs to be treated along with any resulting sinus infection.
• Tension headaches are the most common. Dull pressure or tightness is felt in a band around the head, resulting from tension in scalp and neck muscles. Over-the-counter medications are a quick fix, but finding ways to relax and avoid stress is recommended. Patients sometimes will need preventive medications to help reduce frequency and severity of these headaches.
• Cluster headaches are intense pain on one side (usually behind the eye) that often occurs at the same time every day for several weeks, associated with a runny nose and tearing eye. These headaches are rare, more common in smokers and men, and may be induced by alcohol. Prescription drugs are used during an attack, and preventive methods include medication, Botox injections and melatonin.
• Migraine headaches may sometimes be a debilitating neurological condition. More people report being affected by migraine than diabetes and asthma combined. Nausea and sensitivity to light and sound accompany the dull ache that develops into a constant throbbing that lasts hours to several days. Auras (visual disturbances of bright lines and shapes) can precede an attack and last 10 to 30 minutes. Motor and verbal disturbances are also possible. The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but research shows that parts of the brain become overactive. Migraines run in families and are more common in women. Lifestyle changes, medications and Botox are common treatment options.
Headaches can be set off and intensified by certain triggers. Some identified triggers include:
• Weather: Avoid triggers during high temperatures and changes in weather.
• Sensory overload: Pungent smells, bright lights and loud noises.
• Smoking: Alters blood vessels in the brain, provoking headaches and intensifying them.
• Stress: Hormone fluctuations and clenching cause the majority of headaches. Massage, exercise, a hot bath or simply taking time for yourself can ease stress. Proper sleep keeps serotonin levels up, fighting insomnia, stress and headaches.
• Food: Skipping meals can cause headaches, but so can eating foods with tyramine and nitrates (red wine, cheese, processed meats). Artificial sweeteners and MSG are also suspected triggers. Eat and drink regularly and limit alcohol and caffeine. Foods such as spinach and tofu are high in magnesium which may help with prevention.
• Meds: Oral contraceptives and overuse of pain meds are culprits.
According to the World Health Organization, about 80 percent of women and two-thirds of men are affected by headaches. So how do you know when it's something serious? Look for the unusual and follow your gut when in doubt. If the pain is the worst of your life, accompanied by fever, weakness, numbness, difficulty speaking, confusion or blacking out, get help immediately.