SIU School of Medicine

Jump directly to a section:

Office of Public Affairs




Headaches are a common medical condition that affects nearly everyone at one time or another.  It is estimated that more than 30 million Americans suffer from chronic, recurring headaches.

The majority of headaches last only a few hours, but some can persist for weeks.   There are different types of headaches including tension headaches and migraines, which are the most common types says Dr. Harald Lausen, associate professor of family and community medicine at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.  Tension headaches may be caused by stress, anxiety or environmental issues.   He describes some symptoms:

SOUND BITE:  “. . . tension type headaches are usually felt on both sides of the head.  They tend to be a squeezing or tight sensation and they don’t usually have other symptoms that you hear about like nausea or vomiting or sensitivity to light or sound.”

Dr. Lausen says migraine headaches are more severe.  They tend to be one-sided and often are accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound.  Migraines can be triggered by certain foods and smells or the lack of food.  He offers some treatments for headaches:

SOUND BITE:   “ . . . you usually want to start with medicines like Ibuprofen or Tylenol or aspirin, relatively simple medicines that many people take over the counter. If that doesn’t work, sometimes people will use medications called triptans that you take when you feel like a migraine is coming on. . .”

Dr. Lausen says anyone who has a sudden serious headache that is accompanied by vomiting or vision problems should see their primary care physician immediately.   A sudden headache can signal a stroke.

This is Ruth Slottag at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.