What Does Your Headache Reveal About Your Health?

What Does Your Headache Reveal About Your Health?

Articles Blog


What Your Headaches Can Tell You About Your
Health. Having a headache is a pain—literally and
figuratively. And it’s even worse when your headaches
feel constant and as if pain is nagging you all the damn time. You might be surprised to learn that there’s
a fairly lengthy list of causes of constant headaches. Some reasons behind chronic headaches are
not serious, while other causes can signify a deeper health issue is at play. What causes a headache? Experts don’t completely understand what’s
happening in our skulls when a headache hits, but the most likely explanation is that something
causes the blood vessels to swell, subsequently stretching the nerves around them and firing
off pain signals. There are three primary types of headaches:
migraines, tension, and cluster, Susan Hutchinson, M.D., director of Orange County Migraine & Headache
Center, tells SELF. Here’s a quick summary of each type: 1. You’re stressed. “Unresolved stress can really contribute to
headache,” Dr. Hutchinson says. As mentioned, tension headaches happen when
the muscles of the neck and scalp tense up, and this can be a physical response that your
body has to stress and anxiety, MedlinePlus explains. If you’re suffering from headaches, stop and
think about what’s going on in your life. How stressed are you? And are you just pushing your stress under
the rug instead of dealing with it? 2. You’re dehydrated. “With any kind of headache, a person needs
to look at their health habits,” Dr. Hutchinson says. One important thing to look at is water intake,
as dehydration can cause headaches. The exact connection is unknown, but experts
believe it has to do with the way blood volume drops when you’re not getting enough water. Lower blood volume means less oxygen is getting
to the brain. 3. You’re anemic. Anemia is a condition where you lack enough
red blood cells to properly transport oxygen to tissues throughout your body, the Mayo
Clinic explains. It can bring on symptoms including fatigue,
feeling weak, shortness of breath, and others. “More severe anemia can cause headache,” Dr.
Hutchinson says. There are different causes of anemia, including
having an iron deficiency, having lower-than-normal levels of B-12 and/or folic acid, or having
a chronic health condition that leads to anemia. 4. You have a chronic disease. Headache is a common side effect of many chronic
health conditions like fibromyalgia, lupus, and diabetes. Fix it: If you have chronic headaches, it’s
always worth talking to your doctor if anything feels off with your body to figure out if
an underlying condition could be causing your issues. Even if you’re unsure and think it may be
something minor, don’t delay seeking medical attention and be your own health advocate. 5. You’re dealing with hormonal issues, like
menstruation. Thanks to the drop in estrogen right before
menstruation, many women experience PMS-related headaches. In fact, menstruation is one of the biggest
migraine triggers for women. But it’s not the only time a change in estrogen
levels can cause a headache—both perimenopause and postpartum periods are marked by a significant
drop in estrogen, and as a result, often come with headaches. Pregnancy, too, affects estrogen levels, so
you may notice that your headaches worsen (or disappear in some cases) during this time,
the Mayo Clinic says. “Any time of hormonal change is a vulnerable
time for headaches,” Dr. Hutchinson says. 6. You have a sinus problem. Sinus headaches are not that common, Dr. Hutchinson
notes. “Most sinus headaches are just migraines with
sinus symptoms,” she says. So if you have recurrent headaches in your
sinus or facial area, chances are it’s a migraine. In fact, studies have shown that approximately
90 percent of people who see a doctor for sinus headaches are found to actually have
migraines, according to the Mayo Clinic. But if your headache is paired with fever,
phlegm, or any other indication you might be sick, an underlying sinus infection may
be to blame. 7. Your body clock is off. Ever wake up for a super early flight and
notice a nagging pain in your head? Disrupting your body’s schedule can trigger
headaches, Dr. Hutchinson says. Getting up earlier (or later) than usual can
throw off your circadian rhythm. “Travel in general is a trigger,” she adds. The stress of traveling, change in barometric
pressure, change in time zones, and just being at an airport can all trigger a headache. 8. You drink too much caffeine. Caffeine causes vasoconstriction in your blood
vessels, meaning they get a little narrower. If you drink coffee or other caffeinated drinks
every day, your body gets used to it, Dr. Hutchinson explains. So when you skip it one day, your blood vessels
don’t become constricted and can make your head hurt. It becomes a vicious cycle, slugging back
a mug to find relief, and just further deepening your need for caffeine. 9. You’re taking too many headache meds. Headache treatments can potentially backfire. “Sometimes, the thing you’re taking for
headache starts working against you,” Dr. Hutchinson says. Overdoing it on painkillers can actually make
the pain worse—and the caffeine in some medications like Excedrin can cause withdrawal
headaches, compounding the effects. Overuse of any pain medication to treat headaches
can cause what’s called a rebound headache. 10. In rare cases, constant headaches could be
a sign of a brain tumor. Googling your headache symptoms may result
in a self-diagnosis of brain tumor. Rest assured: They’re rare, so chances are
you don’t have one. But it’s a possibility, and something you
don’t want to miss, Dr. Hutchinson says. “If a patient’s had a regular headache pattern
[for months] and it hasn’t changed, it’s usually not a red flag,” she says. If headaches are a new thing for you, are
the most severe you’ve ever experienced, or are changing or worsening over time, these
are signs your doctor may order a brain scan. But if you’re ever worried about what’s causing
your headaches, it’s worth discussing with your doctor.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *