Did you know that sex can give you a bad headache? How about that threegenevariations linked to migraines have been discovered? And that most sinus headaches are really migraines?
Research is zeroing in on a source of pain weve all felt at one time or another, whether its a dull aching pain or a tension headache, the throbbing of a migraine or a pounding hangover headache after a big night out. Heres the rundown of 10 things you may not know about headaches – and how to avoid them:
1. Sinus Headaches Are Rare:
Nasal and sinus congestion, facial pain and pressure, and a headache usually dont add up to a sinus headache. Headache specialists say that truesinus headachesare rare. In a study with almost 3,000 patients who had at least six sinus headaches in the previous six months, medical evaluations showed that 88 percent actually had migraines. In another study, 45 percent of migraine patients had either nasal congestion or watery eyes.Tipoff: its probably migraine if in addition to sinus symptoms, youre nauseous, sensitive to light or noise and if the headache throbs and worsens with activity.
2. Processing 3D Images Causes Brain Strain:
A Northwestern University ophthalmology professor warns that a large segment of the population may develop a headache and nausea while watching 3D movies. This is due to the brain strain involved with processing the three dimensional images – the more an image jumps out at you, the more effort your brain must make to fuse the pictures together, says Northwestern University’s Michael A. Rosenberg, MD.
3. Take-Off and Landing Lead to Headaches:
No, this has nothing to do with the aggravation of cancelled flights or long delays. Instead, sudden, severe, stabbing headaches during a planes ascent or descent are being reported. Doctors havent figured out yet what causes them. Luckily, the pain lasts only about 20 minutes.
Its not the bugs butexposure toinsecticidesused to kill them that causes these headaches (plus dizziness, trouble breathing, nausea and vomiting). According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, most cases required no medical treatment, but one death has been reported and 18 percent of those exposed to theinsecticidesrequired medical attention.
5. High Cholesterol Causes Headaches:
You may not have to worry unless youre in your late 60s or older and have migraines withaura(the flashing lights, tingling and other signs of a headaches approach that about one-third of migraine patients report). A recent study found a link between migraine with aura and high cholesterol in seniors. Migraine with aura has also been linked to a higher risk of heart disease and stroke.
6. Headaches Might Be Genetic:
Researchers have pinpointed three genetic variations linked to anincreased risk of migraines. One is involved in sensingcoldand pain, another is linked to several processes including signaling in nerve cells (neurons). The role of the third isnt yet known. Each of the gene variations identified alters the risk for migraines by 10 to 15 percent.
7. Alcohol, As a Trigger, Is Overstated:
Research from Italysuggests that the role of alcohol and some foods in triggering migraines has been overstated. Instead, the investigators found that stress, fatigue and in women,menstruationare most often the culprits. They suggested that migraine patients who want todrink alcoholcould try small amounts of specific types to see what they can tolerate.
8. Botox Can Treat Headaches:
Best known as a wrinkle remover, Botox also can put the brakes on chronic migraines (those that occur 15 days per month or more). The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved the use of Botox formigraine prevention. Injections seem to cut down on headaches, although studies suggest that Botox doesnt work as well as some prescription drugs. Researchers still havent figured out how Botox staves off the headaches, but they do know that effects last only about three months before patients have to be re-injected.
9. The Battlefield Has Created a New Type of Headache:
Aboutone third of the US soldiersreturning from Iraq are bringing with them a new type of chronic migraine caused by nerve damage or the pressure from bomb blast waves. While these headaches are still being studied, treatments include rest, avoiding migraine triggers, stress management and changes of diet.
10. Sex Causes Headaches:
Heres a surprise: men are more likely to get these types of headaches than women. According to the American Headache Society,two types of headachesare related to sexual activity: a dull ache that develops as the sex act increases or a severe one that strikes as orgasm nears. Experts say its best to check with your doctor the first time you get one of these headaches.Hint: performance-enhancing drugs can bring on headaches in men who have migraines.
Brief on the writer of this article:Lisa Collier Cool is a bestselling author and winner of 18 journalism awards, including a National Magazine Award for Personal Service. She was first published at age 9 in Ladies Home Journal (a letter to the editor) and as a professional writer has more than one million words in print including articles for American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, Pause Magazine, Essence, Family Circle, Fitness, Glamour, Good Housekeeping, Harpers Bazaar, Health Monitor, Ladies Home Journal, Oprah Magazine, Parade, Prevention, Readers Digest, SELF, and the Wall Street Journal.A past president of American Society of Journalists and Authors, Lisa is also lead health blogger for General ElectricsHealthymagination Blog, which highlights medical news, innovations and technologies that are advancing healthcare.