Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What causes headaches?"
I'm 37, and for about a year I've had this headache. It goes away if I exercise or if I take enough Advil, but otherwise it's just there. I've tried to ignore it for a long time, but now I feel like I'm going crazy. Is it possibly something serious, or am I just overreacting?
Headaches are an extremely common but very distressing symptoms that thousands of patients suffer from. They basically can be divided into four categories (explained below). You should present this problem to your primary care physician who surely has treated hundreds or even thousands of headaches. I think of headaches in 4 categories. 1. Tension headaches. These headaches are common and are often caused by stress. They are a dull pain that starts in the back of the neck and move to both sides of the front of the head. They are usually treated with anti-inflammatory drugs (Advil) Tylenol, neck stretching, and stress relief. 2. Migraine headaches. These are one sided throbbing headaches that can have accompanying visual symptoms such as bright lights or seeing stars. They can be treated the same drugs as tension headaches and a class of medicines called the Triptans. If this is the type of headache you have and you get them daily, then you may benefit from preventative medicines such as amitriptyline. 3. Cluster headaches. These are rare and feel like an ice pick stabbing through the eye 4. Headaches secondary to brain mass (tumor). These are also rare, but of course the one we don't want to miss. These headaches are constant, dull, often in the middle of the forehead. I would schedule an appointment with your primary care physician who can sort out which type you have and order any needed diagnostic test. Good luck.
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