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HeadacheHeadache: Hitting the work

Reviewed by
Dr. Pradip Chauhan


Headache is a severe headache that last for hours or days and is a chronic illness.


Causes and risk factors

The cause behind headache is not understood. Both genetic and environmental factors are believed to play a role in causing headache.

Headache may be due to changes in pain pathway, the trigeminal nerve or due to imbalanced brain chemicals. There are certain factors acting as triggers for migraines, they are certain foods (old cheese, chocolates, aspartame, beer, red wine, aged cheese, caffeine, monosodium glutamate or fasting or skipping meals), stress, hormonal changes in females, sensory stimuli (bright light, sun glare, smells of perfumes, paint thinners, second hand smoke, bad odors, etc.), changed wake up –sleep pattern, changes in environments, certain drugs and physical exertion. Age less than 40 years, family history of migraines, being female and having hormonal changes are the risk factors for migraine.

Sign and symptoms

  • Headache can be in one part of the head or in both the sides.
  • Pulsating or throbbing type of pain that affects the regular activities and increases with activity is one of the symptoms of migraine
  • Sometimes migraine is preceded by sensory signs or symptoms called as auras like tingling sensation in arms or legs, eye pain, blurred vision, tunnel vision, feeling of seeing stars or zigzag lines, light flashes or dark spots. Auras may or may not be present.
  • But there may be presence of one or more prodromal symptoms like sweet cravings, feeling of joy, and feeling of excess energy, irritability or sadness
  • There may be some symptoms along with migraine headache like fatigue, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, frequent urination, weakness, numbness, tingling, fatigue, sensitivity to light and sound, inability to focus on given job, chills or sweating.
  • There are some symptoms even after the migraine headache is relieved like feeling of mental dullness, neck pain and more sleep requirement
  • The frequency of migraine is different in different individuals.

Tests and tools

Migraine is diagnosed by medical history and physical examination. CT scan (Computerized Tomography), MRI (Magnetic resonance Imaging) and Spinal Tap (Lumbar puncture) are done to rule out other possibilities.


Migraine itself does not cause any adverse effect on health but chronic condition can affect daily life.

Rebound headache, abdominal problems (due to excess intake of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) and drug interactions that may become fatal.


Avoiding triggers, avoiding caffeine, alcohol and smoking, taking adequate sleep, avoiding artificial sweeteners, learning stress relaxation techniques and regular physical exercise can prevent migraine.

In case of women if estrogen (birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy) acts as trigger then avoiding it can prevent migraine attack.


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