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Is Another Health Condition Causing Your Headaches?

Written by Courteney

Posted on August 5, 2016 at 6:11 pm

 While primary headaches don’t have an underlying medical cause, secondary headaches are direct products of other health conditions such as allergies, sinuses, a chronic inflammatory condition or something more pressing.

Are Secondary Headaches Serious?

While primary headaches like migraines can be debilitating, they are not life-threatening. Secondary headaches, however, can be signs of potentially life-threatening health problems in rare cases (such as stroke or cancer). Before you press panic, note that only 10% of the headaches doctors encounter are secondary headaches, and of those, most are due to non-urgent conditions like sinuses or neck problems. Drugs and medications can also be the underlying causes of chronic secondary headaches.

Conditions That Can Cause Secondary Headaches

There are hundreds of medical conditions that may produce headaches, some of which include:

  • Strokea sudden unusual headache accompanied by blurred vision, trouble speaking, mobility problems, face drooping or confusion should never be ignored. A strange, sudden headache along with these symptoms may signal a stroke. Seek emergency medical attention in this instance.
  • Head or neck injury – it isn’t unusual for a person who has sustained a concussion or trauma to the upper body to experience a persistent headache. If you have not been treated for your trauma and are getting a nagging headache, seek medical attention.
  • Sinus problems – one of the least threatening and perhaps most common cause of secondary headaches on our list is sinusitis or rhinitis. These headaches tend to be over one eye, quite severe (sometimes migraine-like), and worsen with pressure. People with chronic sinusitis will likely struggle with chronic headaches unless they find medication that helps better control their sinus condition.
  • Medication (or substance withdrawal)certain medications such as blood pressure medications, pain medications like NSAIDs or opioids or birth control can cause chronic headaches. As can non-medical substances like alcohol, recreational drugs or caffeine. Similarly, withdrawing from any of these substances can also cause headaches temporarily.
  • Structural problem – a structural or muscular problem with the head, neck or upper back can cause headaches as well. Talk to your doctor about physiotherapy or treatment that can help resolve any existing muscular issue, or to ask if surgery can help a structural problem.
  • Psychiatric disorder – many types of mental health conditions can cause chronic headaches such as anxiety disorders, depression, schizophrenia or insomnia, to name a few. Speak to your doctor or psychologist about any medications or therapy that may help these headaches.
  • Infection – a systemic infection can cause headaches as well. If you experience a new type of headache that is persistent and accompanied by symptoms such as fever, inflammation, nausea or chills it is important to seek medical attention to check for an underlying infection.
  • Cranial mass – a benign or malignant tumor or cyst can cause headaches by increasing intracranial pressure. If your headaches are worsening over time and feel like immense pressure in the skull, seek medical treatment to rule out an intracranial mass as it could be serious.
  • Chronic pain disorder – those with systemic chronic pain disorders such as autoimmune conditions, fibromyalgia or arthritis may be more likely to experience chronic headaches either from the stress of dealing with daily pain or because of higher levels of inflammation. Talk to your doctor (or one of ours) about pain management strategies.

When To See The Doc

If you are getting chronic headaches of any kind, you should talk to a doctor about what may be causing it if it is a secondary headache, as well as treatment that may work for you. It is important to remember that the vast majority of all headaches are non-critical, so try not to stress about your headache until you talk to a doctor about your concerns. He or she will be able to rule out any acute problems and prescribe the necessary treatment. However, if you experience severe, sudden headaches or ones with troubling accompanying symptoms, seek medical treatment right away. Remember, our highly qualified, board certified DocChat physicians are here 24/7 to assist you with any medical concerns, so feel free to sign up today. Thanks for visiting!

 

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