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More than a headache

One is a symptom, the other is a medical condition.

 By Ivan Olegario, M.D.


Ninety percent of every adult in the WORLD will experience a headache  this year, making that familiar heavy sensation of mind-numbing pain one of the most  common physical complaints. What is important to remember is that a headache is  not a disease but a symptom and effect of a medical condition.

Migraine, one of these conditions, is not something to be taken lightly. It is characterized by moderate to severe headaches that are pulsating in nature and commonly affect one side of the head. It is often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. A third of people suffering from it perceive an aura, an unusual perceptual experience such as a strange light, an unpleasant smell, or confusing thoughts right before a migraine attack.

Assessing the level of pain

Dr. Gerardo Salazar, a neurologist/psychiatrist at the Lucena United Doctors Hospital and Medical Center, Quezon, emphasizes the importance of knowing whether your headache is migraine or not. He says, “First of all, migraine can become chronic (longstanding) and very, very debilitating. Secondly, migraine should be treated by specific medications and can be prevented by specific measures. Most importantly, you should make sure that your headache is not something that could be more serious, such as tumors or stroke.”

Studies also suggest that migraineurs (or people suffering from migraine) are two to three times more likely to suffer from strokes and death from cardiovascular causes. There’s only one way to find out if yours is an ordinary headache or migraine: see your doctor.

As a clue, however, here’s a simple—but not foolproof—way to test for it: the aptly named POUND where each letter stands for migraine’s characteristics:

l Pulsating

l duration of 4 to 72 hours

l Unilateral (one side of the head)

l Nausea

l Disabling

Experiencing four out of these five signs indicates a high likelihood that your headache is caused by migraine. Other experts recommend seeing a doctor if your headaches are accompanied by disability, nausea, or sensitivity to sound or light.

Read more about migraines in our Health Today March issue and find out.

Also in this March issue 

    Busting the myths of menstruation. Free yourself from worries. Know the real deal about your monthly period.

    Osteoporosis prevention exercises. How weight-bearing activities give you strength and protect your bones.

    More than a headache. Know the difference between headache and migraine.
When waiting may mean it’s too late. Vigilance—the key to fighting bowel cancer.

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