What I learnt about different types of headaches

September 3, 2015

Thanks to the stress levels I’ve learned to live with, I do get headaches almost every other week.I reckons it is due to irregular sleeping hours and general lack of sleep or perhaps eating junk food.Those are not my words but a a female friend working with a Television company in Johannesburg, South Africa. She takes comfort from her Google search that she is not alone in the world of painful headaches. I consulted an Australian researcher working with an international drug manufacturer in Africa who is currently involved in studies that show there is a higher prevalence in women than men for migraine and tension headache in Sub Saharan Africa. The Durban born lady revelations to me how she would usually endure the headaches was a learning curve for me. If it still does not go away after a nap, she would then take an over the counter pain reliever and it does seem to go away after that, or so she thinks. Little does she realise that by continuing to endure unnecessary pain, there is a negative effect on her emotional and psychological state, such as low self-esteem, depression, frustration and mood swings.This also has been affecting those around her like her husband, mother and children as she seems to be impatient and moody.This is what made me seek views of the Australian who told me that over-dependence on painkillers too would have undesirable long term effects to the users.In a research he was involved in for the a western world based pharmaceutical and healthcare company, headaches are the most common type of pain that affects 81 per cent of Sub Saharan Africa in the nine months of its study.

Shockingly, 7 out of 10 in Sub Saharan Africa choose to endure headache instead of treating it immediately.This indicates that there is a significant number of Africans tolerating pain unnecessarily. Though the causes of headaches are commonly associated with neurological disorders such as lack of sleep or work pressure, a surprisingly high number have underlying ear, nose and throat roots are also common causes in sub saharan Africa.The Aussie expert also educated me a bit but informing me that the most common ENT causes of headache include Sinusitis where sinuses are air-filled bony spaces within human skull and face.In his own words, at the moment no one knows the real reason why these sinuses exists. Sinusitis happens when these air-filled spaces are impacted with mucous, which usually occurs when we have prolonged flu or an upper respiratory tract infection. Those who have it feel that their head is heavy and uncomfortable. The other one is migraine pain that is experienced on one side of the head or both sides and can last four to 72 hours in an adult. During a migraine, other symptoms like nausea and sensitivity to light and sound may arise according to the Aussie expert. In some instances, the pain from sinusitis can be so severe that it is not only confined to the face but radiates all over the head.To treat sinusitis, the doctor must firstly confirm the diagnosis through a CT scan of the sinuses and he advised me that such patients who complain of headaches he would advise them to undergo a CT scan or an MRI of the brain. Once the diagnosis is confirmed, treatment can be conservative or surgical, depending on the extent of the disease. In Australia, he says treatment includes antibiotics and nasal sprays.

In some past surgery cases he has handled before, it involved widening the existing opening into the affected sinuses and draining the mucous off from the sinus as well as to ventilate these cavities and the least invasive method has ever used with patients is balloon sinoplasty and is similar to an angioplasty where use of a balloon under endoscopic guidance is used to dilate the opening and thus aid in draining and ventilating the sinuses.The main benefit of this method the Aussie expert said is that there is no surgical “cutting” involved and the patient can be discharged a day or two after the procedure. In countries like Kenya, Uganda, Ghana and Angola,sludder neuralgia also known as contact headache which is a form of nerve pain typically felt on one side of the head and face is very common and according to his research material and it occurs when the nasal septum, which is supposed to be straight, is deviated to one side of the nose. Apparently the sharp bent portion of the septum impinges on the inside of the nose, and this results in “compression” of the nerves, which then triggers the pain that is distributed in the face and head depends on the exact nerve that is compressed.Treatment likely involves using a simple decongestant, which reduces the contact between both structures and prevents compression of the nerve and on several occasion, surgery may be indicated to straighten the deviated septum.Therefore,if you have a prolonged headache and “migraine” that does not seem to go away with pain relievers, it may be wise to consult an ENT and is not advisable to live with the pain as it will hamper quality of life. I now know that the sooner one can get it diagnosed, the better it will be for personal well-being and those around you.

Contador Harrison