a person has a headache, several areas of the head can hurt, including
a network of nerves that extends over the scalp and certain nerves
in the face, mouth, and throat. The muscles of the head and the
blood vessels found along the surface and at the base of the brain
are also sensitive to pain because they contain delicate nerve fibers.
The bones of the skull and tissues of the brain itself never hurt
because they lack pain-sensitive nerve fibers. The ends of these
pain-sensitive nerves, called nociceptors, can be stimulated by
stress, muscular tension, dilated blood vessels, and others triggers
of headache. Vascular headaches (migraines are a kind of vascular
headache) are thought to involve abnormal function of the brain's
blood vessels or vascular system; muscle contraction headaches appear
to involve the tightening or tensing of facial and neck muscles;
and traction and inflammatory headaches are symptoms of other disorders,
ranging from brain tumor to stroke to sinus infection. Some types
of headache are signals of more serious disorders: sudden, severe
headache; headache associated with convulsions; headache accompanied
by confusion or loss of consciousness; headache following a blow
on the head; headache associated with pain in the eye or ear; persistent
headache in a person who was previously headache free; recurring
headache in children; headache associated with fever; headache that
interferes with normal life. Physicians will obtain a full medical
history and may order a blood test to screen for thyroid disease,
anemia, or infections or x-rays to rule out a brain tumor or blood
clots. CTs, MRIs, and EEGs may be recommended. An eye exam is usually
performed to check for weakness in the eye muscle or unequal pupil
size. Some scientists believe that fatigue, glaring or flickering
lights, the weather, and certain foods may trigger migraine headaches.
there any treatment?
all headaches require medical attention. Some result from missed
meals or occasional muscle tension and are easily remedied. If the
problem is not relieved by standard treatments, a headache sufferer
may be referred to an internist, a neurologist, or a psychologist.
Drug therapy, biofeedback training, stress reduction, and elimination
of certain foods from the diet are the most common methods of preventing
and controlling migraine and other vascular headaches. Regular exercise
can also reduce the frequency and severity of migraine headaches.
Temporary relief can sometimes be obtained by using cold pack or
by pressing on the bulging artery found in front of the ear on the
painful side of the head.
What is the prognosis?
90 percent of chronic headache patients can be helped.
research is being done?
theory of headaches is that people who suffer from severe headache
and other types of chronic pain have lower levels of endorphins
than people who are generally pain free. Thermography is an experimental
technique for diagnosing headache. In thermography, an infrared
camera converts skin temperature into a color picture, or thermogram,
with different degrees of heat appearing as different colors. Researchers
have found that thermograms of headache patients show strikingly
different heat patterns from those of people who never or rarely
with permission from:
The National Institute
of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892