Continuing from yesterday’s article on primary headaches, today the focus will be on secondary headaches.
Secondary headaches are symptoms of underlying medical conditions. They also activate pain receptors of the head and since they are related to medical conditions, there are numerous causes of secondary headaches.
Secondary headaches are mostly persistent, i.e., they occur regularly, severe in nature compared to primary headaches, are not relieved by OTC medication; and they occur together with other symptoms like fever, neck stiffness, sensory changes or confusion.
Common types of secondary headaches:
- Ice cream headaches – commonly known as “brain freeze”
- Overuse of pain medication
- External compression headaches – caused by usage of tight headgear, e.g., goggles or helmets, that cut off blood circulation
- Sinus headaches – caused by congestion and inflammation in the sinus cavities
- Spinal headaches – caused by low pressure or low volume of spinal fluid
- Thunderclap headaches – sudden, intense and very painful headaches. Such headaches can indicate life-threatening conditions taking place in the brain such as meningitis, aneurysm, bleeding or blood clots, all of which require immediate medical attention.
Possible causes of secondary headaches:
The following are some possible causes of secondary headaches, some of which require immediate medical attention:
- arterial tears – happen when the inner layers separate from outer layers of an artery, causing blood to pool in-between the layers which can form blood clots
- brain tumor
- concussions from forceful head injury
- dental issues
- ear infections
- encephalitis – brain inflammation commonly caused by a viral infection
- glaucoma – damage to the optic nerve caused by high pressure in the eyes
- hypertension (high blood pressure)
- change of medication to treat other disorders
- panic attacks caused by internal or external factors
- toxoplasmosis – parasitical infection found in cat feces, and undercooked meat
- trigeminal neuralgia – irritation of certain facial and cranial nerves
Headaches whether primary or secondary in nature, can be an indication of a serious or critical medical condition, mainly stroke, meningitis or encephalitis.
Readers are advised to seek immediate medical attention if you experience severe or recurring headaches, because time is off the essence to provide essential medical care for any critical medical condition.
Important: immediately arrange to go to the nearest emergency room if you have a sudden, severe headache accompanied with the following symptoms:
- Confusion or trouble speaking
- High fever
- Weakness on one side of your body
- Stiff neck
- Poor or loss of vision
- Poor or loss of mobility
- Nausea and vomiting
The above is not a full list of headaches and possible causes, but rather the most common types and causes of secondary headaches.
As mentioned in Part 1 of this article, there is no one-size-fits-all treatment for any illnesses, more so if it is a critical illness, and only a proper medical facility with qualified medical practitioners will be able to diagnose and attend to serious and critical medical conditions properly.
Part 1 and Part 2 of this article is meant to be a general summary of common primary and secondary headaches, and is in no way to be taken as medical advice. Your medical practitioner will be able to provide more information and proper diagnosis according to your symptoms.