Chicago, IL – March 27, 2007 - Although headaches are rarely life threatening, they can make work more difficult or take the enjoyment out of your favorite leisure activity. While painful and sometimes debilitating, the majority of headaches encountered by sufferers do not indicate a more serious problem.
With all the different headache types and the variety of symptoms among individual sufferers, the National Headache Foundation (NHF) (www.headaches.org) recommends seeing a healthcare provider as the first step in dealing with persistent and painful headaches. The good news is that help is available and treatment options are increasing. Unfortunately, many headache sufferers don’t know about the new treatment options, or fail to see a healthcare provider for diagnosis.
According to the American Migraine Study II (AMS II) - A Ten Year Report Card, conducted for the NHF and underwritten by a grant from GlaxoSmithKline:
- Fifty-two percent of the people whose headaches fit the medical definition of migraine remain undiagnosed. Nearly six out of 10 (57 percent) people with migraine continue to rely solely on general over-the-counter pain relievers or on no medications at all to relieve pain.
- Migraine is misdiagnosed as sinus or tension-type headache almost as often as it is correctly diagnosed.
There is no single cause of headaches. However, headaches are legitimate neuro-biological disorders. Science is rapidly progressing to better understand the cause of primary headaches. Armed with more education about headache types, their causes and available treatments, people with headaches no longer have to suffer needlessly.
- Tension - Type-Approximately 78 percent of adults experience a tension-type headache at some point in their lives, making it the most common form of headache. The pain is often described as pressing or tightening, of mild to moderate intensity and occurs on both sides of the head. There are two general classifications of tension-type headache: episodic and chronic, differentiated by frequency and severity of symptoms.
Chronic tension-type headache can be the result of anxiety or depression. Changes in sleep patterns or insomnia, early morning or late day occurrence of headache, feelings of guilt, weight loss, dizziness, poor concentration, ongoing fatigue and nausea commonly occur.
As common as tension-type headaches are, the causes and symptoms of these headaches are more complicated and unique than many might realize. Often people do not seek medical attention when they should because they assume that the cause of their headache is “just” tension.
- Migraine - More than just a “bad headache” migraine pain and associated symptoms affect 29.5 million Americans. Both men and women experience migraines, although women are three times as likely to suffer from them.
Migraine is characterized by throbbing head pain, usually located on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Most migraine occurs episodically; however, 10 million Americans have chronic headache (15 or more days per month). Many of these people experienced episodic migraine that evolved over time to chronic migraine.
Many things may trigger a migraine. Triggers may include one or more of the following categories: diet, stress, environment, odors/perfumes, emotions, medications and hormonal fluctuations. With proper diagnosis and treatment, migraine can be effectively managed.
Self-Help Treatments for Migraine and Tension-Type Headaches
A healthcare provider may suggest one or more of the following ways for tension-type or migraine headaches. These therapies can potentially decrease the frequency and/or severity of headache attacks:.
- Relaxation Training
- Progressive Muscle Relaxation
- Guided Imagery
- Diaphragmatic Breathing
- Physical and Massage Therapy
- Prescription Medication
- Over-the-Counter Medication
Cluster - There are an estimated one million cluster headache sufferers in the United States; about 90 percent of these sufferers are male. Cluster is one of the least common types of headache, and the cause is unknown.
Cluster headache refers to the characteristic grouping or clustering of attacks. The headache periods can last several weeks or months and then disappear for months or years. Sufferers are generally affected in the spring or autumn, and, due to their seasonal nature, cluster headaches are often mistakenly associated with allergies.
With typical cluster headaches, the pain is almost always one-sided, usually localized behind the eye or in the eye region and may radiate on the same side to the face or neck. The eye lid may droop and the sinus become congested on the side of the head where the pain occurs.
Cluster sufferers report that even small amounts of alcohol or smoking will precipitate an attack during a cluster cycle but not during cluster-free times.
Secondary Headaches - Organically Caused - An organically caused headache is not a disease itself; rather it is a symptom of another disease or disorder. Organically caused headaches can include tumors, infection, high blood pressure, diseases of the brain, eye, ear and nose, blood clots, and aneurysms to name a few. These conditions can be life-threatening so immediate evaluation by a doctor is recommended. Some signs that the headache is related to a serious disorder include change in headache pattern; headaches associated with a medical problem or neurological symptoms such as focal weakness, loss of consciousness or confusion; pain that becomes progressively more severe or is the ‘worst’ headache ever experienced. If you are experiencing headache pain that affects your life, make an appointment with your healthcare provider specifically to discuss your headache problem and seek accurate diagnosis and treatment.
The National Headache Foundation, founded in 1970, is a non-profit organization which exists to enhance the healthcare of headache sufferers. It is a source of help to sufferers’ families, physicians who treat headache sufferers, allied healthcare professionals and to the public. The NHF accomplishes its mission by providing educational and informational resources, supporting headache research and advocating for the understanding of headache as a legitimate neurobiological disease.
For more information on headache causes and treatments, visit www.headaches.org or call 1-888-NHF-5552 (M-F. 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. CT).
Interviews with headache specialists can be arranged upon request by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org. An electronic copy of this press release is also available by contacting the same e-mail address.
CONTACT: Suzanne E. Simons
National Headache Foundation