PER­SIS­TENT HEADACHES

Men's Fitness - - Beat Disease -

MF FEA­TURE

THE SYMPTOMS

You suf­fer from regular, long-last­ing, in­tense headaches.

THE CUL­PRITS

It is ex­tremely rare that a headache is the sign of a brain tu­mour. The most com­mon type of headache – ten­sion headaches – can be caused by stress, ex­ces­sive al­co­hol, lack of sleep or food, bright sun­light, de­hy­dra­tion, de­pres­sion or sim­ply noise. Headaches are also brought on by colds, flu or si­nusi­tis. More in­tense and less com­mon are mi­graines – trig­gered by a whole host of pos­si­ble causes too nu­mer­ous to men­tion here. Worst of all are clus­ter headaches, which cause ex­cru­ci­at­ing pain in one side of the head, of­ten be­hind the eye. ‘Like be­ing stabbed in the face with a nee­dle is how some peo­ple de­scribe it,’ says Rata­jczak. For­tu­nately they’re rare, af­fect­ing only one in 1,000 peo­ple – most of them smok­ers, although the ex­act causes aren’t known.

Headaches could also be a sign of menin­gi­tis or car­bon monox­ide poi­son­ing. If they’re very sud­den and ag­o­nis­ing, it could be a rup­tured brain aneurysm, where a blood ves­sel in the brain rup­tures.

WHAT TO DO

Painkillers and re­lax­ation will sort out most ten­sion headaches. Mi­graine suf­fer­ers can also use stronger med­i­ca­tion called trip­tans (and hide in a dark­ened room). For clus­ter headaches you need med­i­cal ad­vice. Strong drugs are avail­able. For more se­ri­ous prob­lems such as menin­gi­tis or rup­tured aneurysms, or if there’s nau­sea and vom­it­ing as well as a headache, you should head straight for the hos­pi­tal.

NEXT STEPS

As well as trip­tans, which cause blood ves­sels around the brain to con­tract, mi­graines can be treated with some­thing called tran­scra­nial mag­netic stim­u­la­tion, us­ing an elec­tri­cal de­vice that sends mag­netic pulses through your skin into the brain. Clus­ter headaches are treated with var­i­ous drugs, and oc­ca­sion­ally with oxy­gen ther­apy, where pure oxy­gen is breathed through a mask.

If, God for­bid, you re­ally have got a brain tu­mour, surgery is re­quired. ‘Cran­iotomy is the most com­mon,’ says Bill Car­lin, nurse and can­cer spe­cial­ist with Macmil­lan Can­cer Sup­port (macmil­lan.org.uk). ‘Sur­geons re­move a small area of bone or skull, re­move the tu­mour – or as much of it as they can – and then fol­low up the op­er­a­tion with ra­dio­ther­apy or chemo­ther­apy.

APRIL 2015

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