Did you know that there are 150 types of headaches? Headaches occur for a number of different reasons. Factors such as stress, illness, injury, poor sleep, exercise, dehydration, exposure to chemicals, and certain medications, can all contribute to a severe headache. Sometimes, a headache may also have no clear cause, or it could be a symptom of an underlying condition that may require further investigation to determine the appropriate course of treatment.
Types of Severe Headaches
Migraine is a complex condition that causes headaches that are severe, pulsating, episodic, and unilateral (occurring only on one side of the head). “Headache” and “migraine” have been flung around interchangeably. While they are related, it’s worth considering that they are not synonymous. Consulting a neurologist for migraine headaches is necessary, especially since migraine is a neurological condition.
Another type of headache, cluster headaches are uncommon; however, they are prevalent in men and in people aged in their 30s or 40s. They often cause severe, excruciating, bouts of pain in one side of the head—usually described as a sharp, burning, or piercing pain—and around the eye, temple, and sometimes the face. Other symptoms, which usually occur on the same side as where the pain is, include:
- A red, watering eye
- Facial sweating
- Nasal congestion and discharge
- Restlessness and agitation (as a result of the pain)
- Swollen, drooping eyelid
Cluster headaches can also come on quickly and without warning and an attack can last between 15 minutes and 3 hours. Attacks often occur once up to eight times per day with bouts of headaches lasting for several weeks or months.
If you suffer from this type of headache, you should visit your doctor as soon as possible. A brain scan may be recommended to exclude other conditions that can have similar symptoms. Cluster headaches often do not respond to over-the-counter medications. You will also benefit from the expertise of a neurologist if you are suffering from cluster headaches.
Treatment for Severe Headaches
Treatment for severe headaches caused by migraines is aimed at providing symptom relief and helping prevent future migraine attacks. Treatment options for migraine could be any or a combination of the following:
- Prescription pain relievers – Anti-inflammatories, opiates, steroids, triptans (drugs that quiet down overactive pain nerves), and ergotamine-and-caffeine combination drugs
- Preventive medications– High-strength anti-inflammatories, beta-blockers (medications for hypertension), and tricyclic antidepressants
- Botox injections
- Alternative treatments– Acupuncture, biofeedback, relaxation techniques, and massage therapy
Some types of acute medications can provide quick pain relief if you are suffering from cluster headaches. The treatment modalities listed below have proven to be most effective for both preventing and treating cluster headaches.
- Oxygen– Briefly inhaling pure oxygen through a mask
- Triptans – The injectable form (Imitrex) provides quick pain relief
- Local anesthetics – Intranasal lidocaine
Severe Headache Management in Southeast Michigan
At Associates in Neurology, our board-certified specialists have extensive experience in the diagnosis and treatment of many different types of headaches and migraines. We will perform a thorough evaluation of your severe headache, and based on the results, will recommend the best course of treatment to help you achieve long-term pain relief.
To arrange a consultation with one of our specialists at one of our convenient locations, call us today at (248) 478-5512. You can also use our secure, online request an appointment form. We look forward to helping you conquer your headache!