A common underestimated ailment
For years, Andrew Barnes was plagued with headaches. The 35-year-old suffered daily for years with a late-afternoon throbbing in his temples that he came to accept. He says those headaches were so frequent that he began to think of the episode like an old friend showing up to remind him that the day was almost over.
“I paid little attention to my headaches always summing it up as stress related or just my brain getting tired and starting to shut down,” said the 35-year-old. I never took these things seriously until my headaches suddenly started to go on for hours and even days even with painkillers. I had trouble sleeping, focusing and even seeing at some point. I knew that something was definitely wrong. I visited my doctor for the first time in 10 years and he examined me. I was immediately told I had to see a specialist because things were not looking good. I didn’t know what to think or do because I never thought a headache could ever be so serious in my life.”
After undergoing tests Barnes was diagnosed with a brain tumor, which, although benign, could have caused a fatal aneurysm and killed him. Barnes considers himself lucky. He now pays a lot more attention to his aches since he knows just how dangerous they can be.
Much like Barnes, most people take having a headache for granted but physicians like Dr. Indira Damallie-Jones, a general practitioner at the Fleming Street Clinic says you should never underestimate this common ailment, especially if it is occuring outside of the realms of what is normal for you.
“Headaches — the common pain you feel in your cranial area — are not all equal. Many people assume they are and don’t think twice about what could be wrong. Most people would think a headache is a headache is a headache, but in reality there are different kinds of headaches and they all occur for different reasons.”
She says sinus headaches occur because the sinus cavities in the frontal or cheek area become inflammed or infected and cause pressure behind the eyes. The result is a frontal pain and it is possible for one side of the head to be more affected than the other. It is associated with light-headedness, stuffiness and dizziness.
Migraine headaches are characterized through sensitivity to sound, light and even movement for some people. It is common in women around their menstruation period or for some people when they eat chocolate.
Other types of headaches include cluster headaches which is a type of headache males seem to get. It is unilateral or only affects one side of the head. It comes on quickly and it tends to be a sharp pain around or behind the eye. It can last for minutes or even hours says the doctor.
A hyper-tension headache or a headache that is the result of an elevated blood pressure is also a common, but dangerous kind of headache. It can feel like a kind of occipital pressure behind the neck. This particular headache is dangerous and should not be ignored because it can predispose a person for an aneurysm, another kind of headache which can be life-threatening if not monitored or treated.
Although headaches are among the most common complaints patients seek treatment for, the general practitioner says many still do not fully grasp the danger they can be in. She says it is easy to think a painkiller will make it all better, but for the most part they only dull the pain and don’t actually get rid of the problem.
If you are reaching for a painkiller on a daily basis or have a headache that will not go away, you should seek medical attention to make sure nothing is amiss.
While not all headaches are precursors for doom and are probably only due to hunger, heat, or stress, ensuring you are not ignoring a potentially fatal warning of a larger medical risk is essential. The medical practitioner says this is why people should get regular checkups.
“If you are suffering from persistent headaches that last for three days even with painkillers you need to seek medical attention,” says Dr. Damallie-Jones. “If your headache is accompanied by other symptoms like vomiting, blurry vision, an awkward gait, blackouts, nausea or even unaccounted for pain in other parts of the body you need to get checked out. It is important for your doctor to properly diagnose your headache and what is going on so the appropriate treatment can be sought. In some cases these symptoms are an indication of another medical condition or even the presence of brain tumors which can be benign or malignant. So you don’t want to waste time. Headaches may be common, but they are not things to ignore especially if they are unusual for you or they feel different than usual.”