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Updated 10 September 2021

What are Headaches and Migraines?

Patient suffering from a headache due to symptoms from low blood pressure.
A headache can be described as an aching feeling or pain, which can be felt in virtually any part of your head. Headaches tend to be a common symptom of a less severe or serious health condition. Fortunately, most headaches are usually not a cause for serious concern, and with the use of an analgesic, most patients recover in a short space of time. Headaches can be a sign that you have an underlying health problem, such as dehydration, an eye problem, dental issues, or even an ear infection. Headaches can also be a side effect of medication. Migraines are a form of headache that is severe in nature and patients suffer from these on a recurring basis. When a person has a migraine, they tend to feel extreme pressure or pain, usually only on one side of the head. Migraines tend to commence during teenage or young adult age.

What are the Symptoms of Headaches and Migraines?

 With headaches, the common symptoms include:
  • A pounding feeling in your head,
  • A mild ache or pain in the head that is either persistent or infrequent,
  • Fatigue,
  • Restlessness,
  • Irritability, and
  • Sleeplessness.
In the case of migraines, patients tend to suffer from the symptoms of headaches (usually only on one side but can be on both) in addition to any one or more of the following common migraine symptoms:
  • Nausea,
  • Vomiting,
  • Photophobia (light sensitivity),
  • Phonophobia (noise sensitivity),
  • Blurred vision,
  • Blind spots,
  • Experiencing a flash of light,
  • Tingling of the face and/or hands, and
  • Experiencing a foul (odour) smell prior to the onset of the migraine.

What can Trigger Headaches and Migraines?

 Headaches may be triggered by a number of factors. Some of these include:
  • Stress,
  • Illness,
  • Dehydration,
  • Exposure to allergens,
  • Exposure to cigarette smoke or smoke from burning rubber,
  • Exposure to fuel, exhaust, and chemical fumes.
While it is now known that a tendency to suffer from migraines may be passed on from parents to their children, there are also certain triggers that can instigate and exacerbate migraine headaches in people. Similar to common headaches, these migraine triggers include:
  • Dehydration,
  • Sickness,
  • Stress and muscle tension,
  • When you skip meals,
  • When you fail to get sufficient sleep,
  • Bright natural or artificial light like sunlight, fluorescent light or light from energy saving bulbs, light from a TV screen, computer monitor and/or mobile phone,
  • Fumes from certain chemicals such as the exhaust of a vehicle, diesel and/or petrol,
  • Some foods and drinks can also trigger migraine in some people. Caffeine and caffeinated beverages are known to trigger migraine, salty or fatty foods, and also additives, such as; aspartame (an artificial sweetener that is found in many soft drinks) and monosodium glutamate or MSG.

Tests & Diagnosis for Headaches and Migraines

 Your doctor would normally ask you certain questions pertaining to your headaches in order to find the causative factor(s) behind them. A physical examination is also required to look for telltale signs of other underlying ailments that could be the root cause of your headaches. In extreme cases, especially where other symptoms are observed, your doctor may request a blood test, urine and/or stool sample to look for pathogens. Your doctor may refer you to a neurologist if you have frequent and persistent or unusual headaches, or migraines that cannot be traced to any ailment. An MRI scan may be necessary to exclude other causes such as concussion, brain tumor, or cancer. You can get help today for your headaches and migraines by calling this telephone number - 'Headache Australia' - Tel: 1300 886 660.

What are the Treatment Options for Headaches and Migraines?

The treatment options for headaches can vary and be dependent on the primary cause of the headaches. For example, if your headache is caused by dehydration, then getting hydrated by drinking lots of water daily should help remedy the situation. If headaches are associated with photophobia (light sensitivity), you can deal with the problem by using dim lights in your home or workplace. Ultimately, most headaches can be treated with the administration of over-the-counter analgesic medications like Ibuprofen and Paracetamol. There is also evidence that certain exercises like yoga can help to provide relief from headaches and migraines. Physiotherapy, acupuncture, and remedial massage can also help to relieve you of your headaches and migraines as these treatment options can relieve stress and muscle tension which are factors responsible for headaches and migraines. There are also specialised medications that can be used for Migraines and these can be discussed with a doctor to see it they are suitable for you.

Ways to Reduce the Occurrence of Headaches and Migraines

While you cannot cure headaches and migraines, you can actually reduce their rate of occurrence. You can do this by ensuring:
  • You drink plenty of water daily to prevent dehydration.
  • You do not skip meals.
  • You take time-off to rest well and get enough sleep.
  • You limit the amount of time you spend watching TV or staring at the screen of your computer monitor and/or mobile phone.
  • You find convenient and suitable ways to manage home and work stress.
  • You stay clear of caffeine (coffee) and caffeinated beverages.
  • You maintain a healthy dietary plan and engage in regular exercises.

Complications of Headaches and Migraines

 You should take your child or yourself to see your doctor if any of these complications of headaches and migraines are observed or experienced:
  • High fever,
  • Development of skin rash,
  • Stiff neck,
  • Vomiting,
  • Difficulty in talking and/or walking,
  • General body weakness,
  • Problems with your eyesight or vision,
  • Seizures or fits,
  • Where the headaches and migraines do not seem to subside regardless of whatever treatment measures you apply,
  • A drooping face and slurred speech, which could be a sign of a stroke.