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May 28, 2008 > Don't Let a Headache Hold You in Its Grip

Don't Let a Headache Hold You in Its Grip

Women's Center Question and Answer Focuses on Common Headache Problems

When anything - from a problem at the bank to being stuck in traffic - really bothers us, we often find ourselves saying: "Well, this is a real headache!" There's a reason why we compare obnoxious setbacks to a pain in our head. Headaches affect everything. They make it hard to concentrate on work, our relationships and even getting a good night's rest.
Have you ever wanted to have a sit-down with the doctor to get the facts about your headaches and how to stop them? Now is your chance.
In recognition of National Headache Awareness Week, June 1-7, the Washington Women's Center will be presenting a Lunch and Learn session focusing specifically on headaches.
Stop by the Women's Center Conference Room, located at 2500 Mowry Ave., at 12 p.m. on Thursday, June 5, for an interactive talk with Dr. Charan Singh, a Washington Hospital Medical Staff neurologist.
The talk will be presented in a question and answer format, allowing participants to lead the conversation based on their particular interests about headaches.
Headaches don't have to fit into your life
"Women are busy multi-tasking, which means often suffering from headaches can be stressful," says Washington Women's Center Coordinator Kathy Hesser, R.N. "Increased time off from work and worrying about child care can lead to job and relationship conflicts. Finding out more about causes of headaches can help women improve communication with their primary care physician on the subject and lead to more effective treatment."
There is no reason to let headaches affect your overall quality of life. And wanting a resolution to something that is causing you pain is not strange or irrational. But often patients find it frustrating or intimidating talking to their physician about symptoms they don't fully understand.
To help patients better communicate with their physician about headaches, the National Headache Foundation (NHF) provides a 10-step guide. (To see the complete guide, visit
The first step, according to the foundation, is to become a self-advocate. The second is getting educated. A good start is the June 5 Headache class at the Women's Center.
Unfortunately, there is no "quick fix" when it comes to headaches. Headaches can be classified as either primary or secondary and, like other ailments, can have a variety of causes.
Secondary headaches are actually caused by another disease, including life threatening ones, such as meningitis, brain tumors or a stroke or more common conditions, such as caffeine withdrawal and discontinuation of analgesics.
The most common type of primary headache is a tension headache, which affects about 90 percent of the population. Women tend to suffer more frequently than men.
Tension headaches often begin in the back of the head and upper neck as a band-like tightness or pressure and are often described as a band of pressure encircling the head with the most intense pain over the eyebrows. The pain of tension headaches is usually mild and affects both sides of the head rather than just one side. Typically occurring sporadically, most people are able to function despite their tension headaches.
Knowing a migraine
The second most common type of primary headache is a migraine headache, affecting about 12 percent of the population. But, again, the statistics are not equal for adult men and women. While an estimated 6 percent of men will have a migraine in their lifetime, three times the number of women -18 percent -will experience a migraine headache.
Often migraine headaches go undiagnosed or are misdiagnosed as tension or sinus headaches, which means many sufferers do not receive effective treatment. This is why it's important to learn the symptoms and talk openly with the doctor.
According to the NHF, the goals of migraine prevention include:
* Reducing the frequency, severity and duration of your migraines
* Improving your ability to carry out your daily activities
* Improving your response to medicines you take as migraines occur
Migraines have many triggers, or factors, that precipitate the headache. A small percentage of cases have even been linked to women's menstrual cycles. Appropriately, part of the goal at the Washington Women's Center, Hesser says, is to look at women's health as a whole, not just a single piece.
"Our bodies are a uniquely functioning unit," according to Hesser. "Female hormones and our reproductive cycles influence all of our physiological functions. Understanding this from nutrition to disease processes is important. Our goal is to educate women on all aspects of their health and wellbeing."
By better understanding the body and how it works - such as what is triggering a headache - women can help improve their emotional and physical health.
Understanding headaches
Join Dr. Charan Singh from 12 to 1 p.m. on June 5 for a question and answer session about common types of headaches, their causes, symptoms and various treatments in the Washington Women's Center Conference Room, located at 2500 Mowry Avenue, Fremont.
To find out more about services at the Washington Women's Center, call (866) 608-1301 or (510) 608-1356.

Headaches: When to Consult Your Health Care Provider

Headaches are common, but it's important to know when you should consult a doctor. Seek medical attention if your headache:
* is sudden and severe
* occurs with fever, stiff neck, or uncontrollable vomiting
* causes confusion or loss of consciousness
* is persistent, when previously you've been headache free
* is accompanied by numbness, weakness, or vision loss
* begins after the age of 50
* begins after head injury or other trauma
* interferes with your ability to function normally at work or in social situations requires medication more than two days per week

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