Not now, I've got a headache Headache is one of the commonest reasons people come to the doctor. There’s no doubt that a bad headache can be very disabling and distressing. Most headaches are short-lived and relatively harmless, but occasionally a headache can be a sign of a life-threatening illness.
The commonest type of headache is the tension headache, thought to be caused by spasm of the muscles on your scalp. This can be brought on by physical or emotional stress, or poor posture especially from sitting in front of a computer. These headaches tend to build up gradually, starting from the back of the head, and is often described as tightness or pressure. They can come and go for days on end. Treatment is paracetamol, aspirin or ibuprofen, and sometimes neck massage can be helpful.
The next most common cause is migraine. True migraines are headaches of sudden onset, often one-sided, and they often have an aura, which is a set of warning signs that a migraine is coming - these include strange visual disturbance such as flashing lights in a zigzag pattern, strange tastes and smells. Over the counter medications are less likely to work for migraines and you might need a prescription drug to manage them. Migraines can be triggered by various things - chocolate, alcohol, sleep disturbance or caffeine.
There are many other causes of headache, including caffeine withdrawal, but it’s important to know when your headache could be a sign of something more sinister.
A headache that gets worse when you lie down and that wakes you every morning, especially if it’s accompanied by personality change or irritability, could be a sign of a brain tumour (or it could just be a sinus infection!).
A sudden headache like a thunderclap in your head could be a warning of an imminent brain haemorrhage and you should get to a doctor quickly if you experience this.
Headache with fever and neck stiffness could be meningitis.
If you’re having trouble with headaches, your doctor will know what questions to ask to work out the cause and the treatment, so don’t Google it, go ask the expert!
Dr Fiona Bisshop is an experienced GLBTIQ Doctor. She practices at the Central Brunswick Medical Centre.
Not now, I've got a headache
Headache is one of the commonest reasons people come to the doctor. There’s no doubt that a bad headache can be very disabling and distressing. Most headaches are short-lived and relatively harmless, but occasionally a headache can be a sign of a life-threatening illness.