Headaches

Headaches are one of the most common health complaints, with pain presenting in different ways.

Overview

Headaches are one of the most common health complaints, with pain presenting in different ways. A distinction is made between two kinds of headache, i.e. primary headaches and secondary headaches. A primary headache isn't caused by another disease, while a secondary headache can be caused by an accident or another disease.

Symptoms

Primary headache

Tension headache
  • Frequency: occasionally to daily
  • Location: occurs on both sides of the head and affects specific regions, such as the forehead, temples or skull
  • Intensity: slight to medium
Migraine
  • Duration: 4 - 72 hours
  • Frequency: occasionally to several times a month
  • Location: one-sided 60% of the time
  • Character: pulsing, nagging, pounding
  • Intensity: medium to severe
  • Accompanying symptoms: nausea/vomiting, sensitivity to light and noise
Cluster headache
  • Duration: 30 - 180 minutes
  • Frequency: several times a day, then disappears for several months
  • Location: strictly one-sided, behind the eye
  • Character: stabbing
  • Intensity: severe pain that worsens rapidly
  • Accompanying symptoms: eye waters, turns red and swells up, nose is blocked or running, sweat on forehead

Secondary headache

Varies according to the disease or type of accident

  • Character: pulsing, dull, stabbing, pounding, nagging or throbbing
  • Location
    • Affects one or both sides of the head
    • Forehead or neck, radiating
    • Affects all of one side of the face
  • Worsened by movement, cold or food
  • Accompanying symptoms

Causes and treatment

Causes (excerpt)

Primary headache
  • Stress
  • Hormone fluctuations
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of sleep
  • Lack of fresh air, overheated rooms
  • Poor posture, muscle tension
  • Smoking, alcohol
  • Painkillers
  • Changes in the weather
Secondary headache

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests

Different tests, depending on the symptoms and suspicions

  • Physical examination
  • Blood test
  • Blood pressure
  • Measurement of brain waves (EEG)
  • Imaging procedures
    • Ultrasound of the organs of the throat and blood vessels
    • Examination of cerebral blood vessels using a contrast agent (angiography)
    • X-ray of head and spine
    • MRI (magnetic resonance imaging)
    • CT scan (computed tomography)
Possible therapies:
  • Painkillers
  • Reduction of light and noise
  • Other treatment by a specialist, depending on the cause of the underlying disease

What can I do myself?

  • Make enough time for sleeping and relaxation
  • Sufficient fluid intake (> 2 litres/day)
  • Balanced wholefood diet
  • No alcohol or cigarettes
  • Keep a pain diary (type of pain, duration, intensity)
  • Sufficient exercise and sport
  • Relaxation and reduction of stress
  • Avoid regular use of painkillers
    • Risk of medication-induced headache
    • Long-term side effects
  • Household remedies
    • Lightly massage the temples (lavender or peppermint oil)
    • Put fresh lemon slices on the painful area
    • Lavender tea
    • Sufficient fresh air when sleeping

When to see a doctor?

  • Unexplained sleepiness
  • Person doesn't react when spoken to
  • Sudden onset of extremely severe headache
  • Speech disturbances and problem finding words (anomia)
  • Dizziness, hearing problems and visual disturbances
  • Disorientation, gaps in memory
  • Signs of paralysis
  • Seizure
  • Stiff neck
  • High fever and chills
  • Vomiting
  • Condition worsens after an accident involving a blow to the head
  • Headaches affecting children (must be taken seriously)

Further information

In conjunction with the TopPharm pharmacies, CSS Insurance offers a pain assessment and advice programme. This should help to improve your quality of life.

Synonyms

headaches, headache, sore head, cephalgia, migraine, tension headache, cluster headache

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Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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