Stress or inflammatory response triggers the nervous system to respond by causing a spasm of the nerve-rich arteries at the base of the brain which closes down or constricts several arteries supplying blood to the brain (scalp and carotid/neck arteries)

The brain respond by dilating its arteries to meet its energy needs but also triggers a release of pain-causing chemicals. Reduced blood flow decreases the brain’s supply of oxygen and blood clotting particles called platelets clump together, releasing serotonin – a powerful constrictor of arteries.

Headaches are diagnosed as: vascular, muscle contraction/tension, traction and inflammatory headacheds (symptoms of other disease, ranging from stroke to sinus infection, eye problems and others).

The abnormal ballooning of a blood vessel is called aneurysm and a CT scan is used to examine for blood and then an angiogram.

Fatigue, lack of nutrients from food, glaring or flickering lights from TV, computer or other sources, changes in weather, chemicals in the home, lack of fresh air in closed rooms, certain foods can set off migraine.

Biofeedback and relaxation training, stress reduction, elimination of certain foods from the diet and drug therapy are the most common methods of preventing and controlling migraine and other vascular headaches.

Headaches caused by low blood sugar is treated with scheduled smaller and more frequent meals.

Repeated exposure to toxic chemicals such as nitrites, MSG, insecticides, common household cleaners, lead, carbon tetrachloride may develop headaches. Drugs such as amphetamines, alcohol hangover, caffeine in large quantities (can be a cure in small amount) can cause headaches.

Studies of patients with cluster headaches lasting between 30 and 45 minutes show that they are likely to have hazel eyes and tend to be heavy smokers and drinkers. A reduced blood flow above the eyes is shown in thermograms of untreated cluster patients.

Chronic muscle-contraction headache feels like the head and neck are in a cast. Research has shown that for many people, it is caused by depression and anxiety. Prolong writing under poor light, degenerative arthritis or neck and temporomandibular joint dysfunction (from poor bite and jaw clenching). People who suffer from infrequent muscle-contraction headaches may benefit from a hot shower, moist heat applied to the back of neck, massage, good posture, gentle exercise of neck and physical therapy.

Older adults who experience sudden or unexpected severe headaches, tenderness of scalp, muscle aches, fatigue, fever, unexplained weight loss, jaw pain when eating or visual disturbances may be suffering from temporal arteritis, TA. TA is an immune disorder characterized by inflammation in the arteries of the head, neck and aortic arch leading to blindness and occasionally to a stroke, heart attack or aortic dissection (tear in aorta).

Seek treatment early with your doctor and use some preventive measures such as whole foods rich in calcium and magnesium (relaxes the nerves), water, Vitamin C, good fat (avocado and fish) and leafy greens.

Written by

Connie Dello Buono of Motherhealth, provides caregivers for  seniors in the bayarea , 408-854-1883