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Episode 59: Headaches and Traumatic Brain Injury

June is Headache and Migraine Awareness Month. This year’s theme is advocating for treatment access.

Headaches are often a debilitating condition requiring medical intervention. 

Headache is one of the most common symptoms following a traumatic brain injury. 

These headaches are often called a “post traumatic headache” 

Headaches are also the most frequently reported symptom following a concussion or the “post-concussive syndrome”.  Reportedly over 80 % of concussion victims suffer from post concussive headaches. 

Over 30% of individuals sustaining any form of brain trauma report having long term headaches that can last for years following brain trauma.

Headaches can be disabling to the individual resulting in:

  • Throbbing sensation and severe pain to the head;
  • Nausea and vomiting;
  • Light sensitivity known as photophobia.  It is not uncommon to see those suffering from the effects of a concussion to wear sunglasses while indoors because of their sensitivity to artificial lighting; 
  • Sound sensitivity to loud noises. 

There are over 150 types of headaches, but the most common types include:

Tension Headaches, Migraine Headaches, and Sinus Headaches

But, headaches can also be a sign of life-threatening brain pathology including:

Brain bleeds caused by a rupture of a blood vessel within the brain;

Leakage of a major blood vessel in the neck usually caused by trauma and known as a vertebral or cerebral artery dissection; and

Headaches during pregnancy caused by a brain bleed known as venous sinus thrombosis. 

A sudden severe headache many also be a sign of a brain tumor.

People often refer to these headaches as the worst headache of their life and they come on suddenly and without warning. The medical profession commonly refers to these headaches as a “thunderclap headache”

When this type of headache occurs, go the nearest emergency room without delay. Call 911 immediately.  Your life depends on it.

Headaches can be triggered by a variety of causes including diet, weather conditions, hormonal changes, vision disturbances and mental health issues such as anxiety.

Many medications are now available to treat headache disorders, so it’s advisable to seek the opinions of a medical professional if you are suffering from headaches. 

Audio version

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