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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 migraines, tension headaches and cluster headaches, says Dr. Alan Deckard, associate professor of internal medicine at SIU School of Medicine in Springfield.  He describes the various types of headaches.

“We can separate headaches into primary headaches and secondary headaches.  Primary headaches are a disease process in themselves, whereas secondary headaches are from other causes.  Much more commonly we see primary headaches.  Migraine headaches are the most common of those – probably about 90 percent of the primary headaches.”

Dr. Deckard says migraine headaches are more severe.  They tend to begin gradually and often are accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound.  Migraines can be triggered by certain foods and alcohol.  He offers some treatments options.

“Headache treatment for things like tension headache or the occasional eye strain in headache is fairly simple.  It might be Tylenol.  It might be with a counter anti-inflammatory agent like ibuprofen.  Those usually work well for the occasional headache sufferer.  For the recurrent headache sufferer, you really do need to get to the cause.”
Dr. Deckard says for migraines most physicians recommend medications called triptans.  Anyone who has a sudden serious headache that is accompanied by vomiting or vision problems should see their primary care physician or go to the hospital emergency room immediately.   A sudden headache can signal a stroke.

Ruth Slottag