On May 5th, Dr. Kate Mullin presented a virtual zoom event hosted by the Warner Library in Tarrytown, NY. During the event, Dr. Mullin explained the differences between headache types and their characteristics. Below is a synopsis of the information discussed at this event.
Tension headaches. Tension headaches are the most common form of headaches, affecting 75% of the general population. Tension headaches are bilateral, ranging from mild to moderate in intensity, not typically accompanied by nausea or vomiting, may be accompanied by increased sensitivity to light or sound but never both.
Cluster headaches. Dr. Mullin also discussed a less prevalent, yet very severe headache type called Cluster Headaches Cluster headaches occur in groups, usually between 1-8 times per day. Characteristics are severe, one-sided, stabbing or piercing pain which is localized to the eye and usually lasts between 15 minutes to 3 hours. Other symptoms that may present on the same side as the pain include red or teary eye, runny or stuffy nostril, flushing of the face, and drooping of the eyelid. The age of onset for cluster headache is most often between 20 and 40 years, and it is estimated that between 200,000 and 1 million people suffer from cluster headaches. Cluster headaches commonly take place overnight and can also be reoccurring every year at the same time.
Migraines. Migraine headaches are characterized as a headache of moderate or severe intensity. The term ¨migraine¨ derives from the Greek word ¨hemicrania” which translates to half-skull and was used to describe pain on one side of the head. Unlike tension headaches, the pain is usually focused on only one side of the head and is accompanied with symptoms such as heightened sensitivity to light and sound, as well as nausea and vomiting. A migraine can be made worse with physical activity and can last for 4-72 hours. Migraines affects 1 in 7 people globally, which is roughly 39 million people that suffer from migraine headaches in the U.S. alone. Additionally, migraine disproportionately affects women making up 85% of people that suffer from migraines. Migraines can be classified as either episodic or chronic based upon the frequency of migraine attacks. Chronic migraine is classified as 15 headache days or more, whereas episodic is classified as less than 15 days.
The cause for headaches and migraine are oftentimes genetic, but they are also triggered by an irregular sleep and/or meal schedule, alcohol consumption, MSG and nitrates intake, and high stress levels. The migraine brain loves consistency. Any changes in your routine can trigger a migraine. The best way to see if you have either of them is to see your neurologist for an initial visit.
Concussion headaches. Concussions can be caused by direct trauma to the head or rapid acceleration-deceleration of the head. Some telltale signs that may indicate that a person is suffering from a concussion are nausea, vomiting, loss of balance, dizziness, sensitivity to light, the inability to recall events prior to or after the trauma, confusion, and mood/behavior changes. Each year, an estimated 1.6-3.8 million recreation-related concussions occur in the United States. The best way to find out if you have a concussion is to see your neurologist to get a baseline concussion test prior to experiencing a concussion. This gives a neurologist insight into a person’s balance, learning skills, and memory skills when they are healthy versus once they have experienced a concussion. Even if you have not had a previous baseline exam, seeking neurological help will greatly expedite recovery from a concussion. It is important to go to the doctor immediately if you think you have a concussion to receive proper treatment and mitigate the risks of further damaging the brain.
What to expect from an initial neurological visit? A typical headache visit will involve preliminary testing to first determine what type of headache the patient suffers from. Examples of preliminary testing include an initial blood work and a thorough neurological exam. It is also helpful if the patient has kept a journal entry of their headaches with how long each has lasted. Questions you can expect from the doctor may be: ¨Where is the pain located? ¨, ¨What is the severity of pain? ¨, ¨Where did the pain begin? ¨ ¨Does the pain travel? ¨, ¨Are there any other complaints along with the headache pain? ¨. During a neurological exam, a person’s motor function, balance, senses, and reflexes are also tested. Issues with being able to perform daily tasks can be influenced by damage to the nervous system, so a neurological exam is done to rule out these types of complications.
To view Dr Mullin’s presentation in its entirety, click on the link provided: