Tag Archives: headaches

Is Another Health Condition Causing Your Headaches?

 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!


A Look at Chronic Migraines


Migraine disorder is a prevalent neurological disorder affecting nearly 38 million people in the United States. Migraines are classified as recurrent primary headaches that can range from moderate to severe.

What are ‘Primary Headaches’? 

Primary headaches are chronic, sometimes daily headaches or migraines that do not appear to be caused by another underlying health condition. Primary headaches are conditions in themselves, such as migraine disorder. Often in cases of primary headaches diagnostic tests come back normal, although the symptoms may be quite debilitating.

Episodic and Chronic Migraines

Some people suffer episodic migraines (EM), whereby they experience mild to moderate migraines once every few months or so. Also known as migraine disease or migraine disorder, chronic migraines (CM) is a troublesome condition that causes more frequent and disabling migraines that are longer in duration than episodic migraines. Unfortunately even in 2016, there is little known about migraines.

Migraine symptoms

Migraines can lead to excruciating pain and discomfort that can put a person out of commission for days. Migraines often extend far beyond head pain. Most primary migraines go through 4 stages: prodrome, aura, headache and post-drome. Symptoms of these stages may include:

  • Pain on one or both sides of the head
  • Pain that radiates down face or neck
  • Extreme sensitivity to light and/or sound
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Faintness or syncope
  • Irritability or moodiness
  • Stiff neck muscles
  • Partial vision loss or blurry vision
  • Numbness or weakness in the face or upper body

Migraine Prevention

Many doctors are now having migraine-prone patients practice certain prevention techniques in hopes their migraines will be fewer and farther apart. Some of these strategies include:

  • Keeping a ‘trigger diary’ to see if your migraines correlate to specific activities, foods or scents.
  • Avoidance. Once you identify potential triggers such as scents, dust or certain foods, do your best to avoid them.
  • Try Transcutaneous supraorbital nerve stimulation (t-SNS) – more than just a tongue-twister, t-SNS devices have been greenlit by the FDA as preventative migraine therapy tools. It may be worth a try if you frequetly struggle with migraines.
  • Nip your stress in the bud. Excess stress is bad news for any chronic medical condition, including migraines.
  • Work that bod out on the regular. Endorphins are nature’s painkillers, getting them flowing routinely may help cut down on pain that can be lurking sidestage.
  • Keep an eye on your hormones. Estrogen in particular plays a role with migraines in females, some doctors use hormone altering medications with some patients.
  • Watch your diet. There are certain foods such as artificial sweetners that have been linked to migraines.
  • Establish routine. A lack of sleep can cause migraines, so can the stress of a schedule that is all over the map, so try to stick to a routine bedtime, as well as a nightly routine.
  • Give acupuncture a try! Many people swear by acupuncture for various illnesses, it can’t hurt (too much!) to give it a try to see if it works for you.

Medical Treatment for Migraine Disorders

Unfortunately prevention isn’t always effective, but luckily there are many treatment options available today for when a migraine does strike. Decades ago aspirin was all that was available to aid these massive pains in the head, but modern medicine has opened up the gates for faster-acting and longer lasting migraine relief. Some medications doctors often prescribe patients with migraine disorders include:  NSAIDs to help with the pain and inflammation, anelgesics, daily preventative medication in serious cases of migraine disorders and triptan injections, just to name a few. If you experience migraines, talk to your doctor (or one of our board certified DocChat physicians), so he or she can evaluate your case to determine the best treatment plan for you specifically.

Thanks for visiting DocChat! Keep an eye out for our post on secondary headaches coming soon.