Chronic Headache Conditions: More than Migraines

July 16, 2012

Some days it seems that everybody in your local coffee shop, around 4 in the afternoon is complaining of a migraine.  You’ve seen them, tapping their feet while impatiently waiting for the flustered barista to finish blending the triple-decaf- no-whip-caramel-mocha-iced-non-fat concoction for some 14 year old.  It’s maddening! With your chronic migraine kicking in, you NEED your cup of java! But… what about everyone in line ahead of you?  Do they all suffer with chronic migraines?  Most likely they do not.  Chronic headache conditions include not only migraines, but also a variety of other headache types.

True chronic headaches are primary headaches, which don’t occur as a symptom of another condition.  They occur at least 15 days each month, and are categorized by whether they occur for more or less than 4 hours per day. Chronic migraines fall into the first category and are often confused with three other conditions.  According to the Mayo Clinic, these are:

Chronic Tension-type headaches

This condition is usually preceded by episodic tension headaches and progresses to a chronic condition, with symptoms lasting from several hours to ongoing.  Mild to moderate tightening pain is experienced on both sides of the head.  Moderate physical activity doesn’t intensify the pain, which may be accompanied by mild nausea or visual and auditory sensitivity.

New Daily Persistent Headache

The symptoms of this condition are similar to those of chronic tension headaches, and sometimes also to chronic migraines.  However, the onset of these headaches is unique in that within 3 days of a new headache, these headaches become constant and usually go away on their own in a few months.  Although they are categorized as primary headaches, there is a theory that they may be linked with a virus.

Hemicrania continua

Moderate pain, with spikes in severity, characterizes this condition, which occurs on one side of the head only.  Pain is incessant and may worsen, accompanied by migraine-like symptoms.  This headache is accompanied by eye irritation on the affected side, runny nose and congestion, and drooping eyelid or constricted pupil.

The Mayo Clinic indicates, if you rely on daily pain medication or your pain doesn’t respond to regular doses of over the counter drugs, you should consult with a physician.

So next time you’re in line to get that cup of Joe, know that the folks ahead may not have a migraine, but they also need their P.M. double Espresso!

Photo courtesy © Can Stock Photo

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