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When Headaches Could Mean Something More

When Headaches Could Mean Something More

When Sunita Desai (name changed) walked into the hospital, she said she was suffering from throbbing pain in her head for almost a week. She first thought it is a ‘bad headache’ and took some painkillers which temporarily alleviated the pain, but it returned within a few hours. Sunita got worried after the pain was accompanied by a feeling of nausea and vomiting. What Sunita had dismissed as a headache was symptomatic of a migraine.


According to doctors, headaches are often non-serious and might need minimal medical intervention, if at all. Most often sound sleep or adequate rest along with some painkillers can make the headache go away. The general causes of non-serious headaches are known to be stress, skipping meals, sleep deprivation, over exposure to the sun, eye strain and even dehydration. However, when headaches are accompanied with other symptoms like vomiting, paralysis, double vision, and vertigo, it could be signs of a bigger health issue and
needs immediate medical attention.


The Bigger Concerns


  • Migraines: Typically, a migraine headache affects one side of the face and can be accompanied by nausea or vomiting. The reason why a migraine occurs is still unknown, but it often aggravates on exposure to light, sound or smell. Migraines are a chronic condition and the headaches may last for approximately 4 to 72 hours. In some cases, it could go on for even as much as a week. Doctors say any headache that feels like throbbing pain, is recurrent and has changed in character from previous headaches, is often a migraine.
  • Meningitis: A headache can be an important symptom for meningitis, an inflammation of the protective membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. The headaches are accompanied by vomiting, fever and neck stiffness. Since meningitis infections usually start from the base of the brain, pain is common in the back of the head.
  • Stroke: A stroke occurs when there is an abrupt cut of blood supply to the brain. This can result in paralysis. Apart from a throbbing headache, a stroke often comes with other signs like difficulty in speech, immobility in one side of the body, drowsiness, and epileptic attacks. People need to be rushed to a hospital immediately and begin treatment within the first 3-4 hours, after which there could be extensive damage and paralysis.
  • Brain tumour: A headache can also be symptomatic of an underlying tumour. A brain tumour is classified as a mass or growth of abnormal cells in the brain tissue. Depending on where the tumour is located, blurred vision, speech distortions, seizures and a possible feeling of paralysis, are other symptoms. A headache caused by a brain tumour worsens during certain activities like sneezing, bending, coughing, and in the morning, when the body starts working after it has relaxed at night.
  • Brain Aneurysm: Headaches occur in brain aneurysmal cases. A brain aneurysm is a balloon type swelling in the blood vessels of the brain, caused either by the narrowing of blood vessels or a head trauma. A person suffering from this condition may experience what is referred to as a ‘thunderclap headache’. A thunderclap headache is a sudden and excruciating headache that intensifies within seconds. Neck pain, blurred vision and changes in speech also accompany this severe headache. Immediate medical attention is needed.


Remedies for Simple Headaches


When headaches come along with other symptoms, no matter how minor, it is important to visit a doctor to diagnose the cause of the headache and then treat it correctly. However, every kind of headache does not need medical intervention. A non-serious headache can be dealt with OTC (Over the Counter) medicines, rest and relaxation. If headaches are frequent, do not make taking OTC drugs a habit; the body stops responding to the medication after a certain period of time. There are other easy remedies that can also help ease a headache.


  • A simple massage on the pressure area and around the eyes with the fingers. Acupressure therapy is known to release pain or stress from the body effectively. Massaging the acupressure point helps reducing the pain.
  • Ginger can act as an instant relief from headache. Drinking a glass of warm water mixed with a small amount of crushed ginger helps.
  • Applying a warm compress on the forehead can help improve blood circulation and reduce pain.
  • Stretching the neck and shoulder may relieve stress that often contributes to a headache.
  • Not eating can sometimes decrease the blood sugar level and that can trigger a headache. Eating a light meal is then necessary.
Dr. Jyoti Sehgal
Meet The Doctor
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