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Headache

Introduction

Headache is one of the most common conditions in Malaysia. It usually does not represent a serious illness.

It can affect any age and nearly all of us have experienced headache. Even though it might not have a serious underlying cause, it can be quite painful and distrupt your daily activities.

Causes of headache

Anything which stimulates pain receptors in the head and neck can cause headache :

  • Stress (tension headache) – most common
  • Depression
  • Migraine (constriction of blood vessels)
  • Eye strain and diseases
  • Toothache and jaw pain
  • Disease of the nose, ear and throat.
  • Muscle tension.
  • Head and neck injury.
  • Stroke
  • Brain infection, growth in the brain (tumour)
  • High blood pressure
  • Drugs and poison

Treatment

Depends on the cause :

  • Lie down in a dark, quiet room
  • Take mild pain killers such as paracetamol or aspirin
  • Try relaxation techniques and gentle massage
  • Take a warm bath.
  • For migraine, put an ice bag or cold towel on your forehead and alter your diet
  • Coping well with your stress
  • Try supportive / complementary therapy such as chiropractic and accupunture
  • Treatment for specific disease.

When to see a doctor?

Serious headache is not common but should be recognized as it may be potentially life-threatening. (Red flag)

  • Fever
  • First severe headache in person older than 40
  • No improvement with pain killers
  • Headache very often and severe.
  • Headache differs from usual (severe and starts suddenly)
  • Worse with exercise, coughing or sneezing.
  • After head injury
  • Neck stiffness
  • Drowsy
  • Fit
  • Weakness and numbness
  • Blurring of vision or blind.
  • Headache lasting for weeks, worse at night or early morning
  • Nausea, vomiting.
  • Loss of appetite and loss of weight.
  • Person with high blood pressure, cancer and HIV

Prevention

  • Cope well with stress
  • Practise relaxation technique
  • Balanced diet
  • Regular exercise
  • Stop smoking
  • Practice healthy life style

FAQ’s

Should I get CT-Scan brain done for my headache?

Indicated for a person with ‘red flag’ presentation which suggests brain infection or tumour.

Studies shows positive CT-Scan result only in one percent of patient with headache.

It is true most of the headache is due to growth in the brain?

No

Most common type of headache is tension type.

Last Reviewed : 26 April 2012
Writer : Dr. Jamilah Abdullah
Reviewer : Dato’ Dr. Hj. Md Hanip b. Rafia