Headaches are one of the most common complaints patients have when they see the doctor, but 20 percent of patients are actually suffering from a migraine.
Dr. Jon Brillman, a neurologist with Lee Health, says lack of sleep, dehydration, sinus pressure, even stress can cause headaches. “Most headaches are benign, and by that I mean they are tension headaches or just headaches related to muscle spasms around the scalp.”
But when the headache also causes nausea, vomiting, visual changes, or confusion, doctors say that’s when it’s become a migraine. “Migraine is different than just plain tension headaches because migraine is a systemic disorder that has a lot more than just headaches,” said Dr. Brillman.
While most headaches don’t cause serious internal problems, doctors say that’s not the case for migraines. “Migraines on the other hand can be serious if it’s frequent and if it’s disabling,” said Dr. Brillman.
These white spots on this brain scan show the migraine, but if a patient is only having headaches, these spots won’t be there. Migraines are an inherited disorder, typically in women. But they can be caused by things like stress, cheese, and red wine.
“It’s a problem of circulation in the brain. The blood vessels either constrict or cause stroke-like symptoms, or stretch and cause headache,” said Dr. Brillman.
If patients are having migraines two to three times a month, doctors may recommend a daily medication to help prevent them. “The Triptan, which are commonly taken, will constrict the blood vessels because the headaches are felt to be due to the stretching of the arteries inside the head or around the scalp. So they constrict the blood vessels and take the pain away that way,” said Dr. Brillman.
Headaches can be treated by sleeping, eating, hydrating, or taking over-the-counter medication, whereas, chronic migraines may need an evaluation and prescribed medication. If patients have symptoms they need to address them with their doctor.
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Lee Health in Fort Myers, FL is the largest network of health care facilities in Southwest Florida and is highly respected for its expertise, innovation and quality of care. For more than 100 years, we’ve been providing our community with personalized preventative health services and primary care to highly specialized care services and robotic assisted surgeries. Lee Health - Caring People. Inspiring Care.