Health Matters: Ian Strachan looks at headaches and some treatments

Uppermill pharmacist IAN STRACHAN looks at headaches and some treatments.

Ian Strachan headshot
PHARMACIST: Ian Strachan

MORE THAN 10 million people in the UK experience headaches regularly, making them one of our commonest health complaints.

Most are not serious and are easily treated by over-the-counter painkillers and lifestyle changes. These include getting more rest and drinking enough fluids.

As a pharmacist I would always advise sufferers to refer to their GP when symptoms aren’t relieved by over-the-counter painkillers or when headaches are so painful or frequent they affect your daily activities.

Some of the major types of headache are:

Tension headaches: The most common type, they are described as a tight band affecting both sides of the head and lasting for 30 minutes to several hours. The cause is unclear but has been linked to stress, poor posture, skipping meals and dehydration.

Paracetamol and ibuprofen are the painkillers of choice while regular sleep, reduced stress and staying well hydrated may also help.

Migraines: Less common than tension headaches, they are described as a throbbing pain at the front or side of head and usually last a couple of hours. Discuss treatment options with your pharmacist.

Cluster headaches: Rare type of headache occurring in clusters for a month or two around the same time of year. They give rise to intense pain around one eye accompanied often with symptoms such as watery or red eyes and a blocked runny nose. I would advise anyone who suspects this type of headache to visit their GP.

Medication and painkiller headaches: Some headaches are a side effect of taking particular medication such as painkillers. This type usually gets better in a few weeks after the painkillers are stopped.

Finally, other causes can include menopause, pregnancy or hormone problems linked with periods while taking the contraceptive pill.

Reducing stress levels, a regular sleeping pattern and avoiding missing meals may help reduce headaches associated with your menstrual cycle.


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