What are headaches?
Despite the common definition, headache is actually a
complex field of medicine, with an elaborate classification system, diverse
mechanisms and causes and various treatment options available to headache
sufferers. Yet, despite an extensive
research initiative and the knowledge that has emerged as a result, a cure for
headache is still awaiting discovery.
Headaches are very common.
Doctors estimate that approximately 90% of men and 95% of women
experience at least 1 headache within a given year.
The American public spends about $2 billion annually on over-the-counter
medications for the treatment of headache.
Headache is a broad term that encompasses a wide variety
of headache syndromes. It helps
to separate headaches into 2 general categories: primary headaches and secondary
primary headache is a headache that is not a symptom of, or caused by,
another disease or condition. Examples
of primary headache include migraine with and without aura, tension-type
headache and cluster headache. Most
people suffer from the primary headache.
secondary headache is a symptom of, or caused by, another underlying
disease or condition, such as infection or a brain tumor.
Secondary headaches are often more serious, and can be more
dangerous, than primary headaches. Fortunately,
secondary headaches are rare.
What are migraines?
Migraine is a primary headache disorder affecting
approximately 28 million Americans. Migraine sufferers include 18% of women and
6% of men. Migraine prevalence is
similar among boys and girls during childhood, but with onset of puberty, the
prevalence of migraine increases significantly in women.
Migraine is a neurologic disorder that causes
episodic attacks of severe headache and associated neurologic symptoms of
nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light or sound, dizziness, cognitive changes
Migraine is a pain condition that can be severe and
disabling, and many migraine sufferers are unable to work during a migraine
attack. The impact of migraine is
vast, affecting not only productivity and employment, but also family and social
life, relationships, and an overall sense of well-being.
Researchers estimate that migraine costs Americans $13 billion annually.
American Headache Society Handbook:
Brainstorm. A CME-accredited
collaborative symposium on diagnosing and treating migraine.
Meeks, J. Highlights of the 5th Annual Association of
Family Practice Physician Assistants (AFPPA) Conference: Headache Management,
Evaluation and Treatment, 2003; www.medscape.com