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Clinical Q&A: Headaches with Caitlin Marchenko NP

Know Your Headaches

If you have ever experienced pain or discomfort in your head, scalp or neck chances are you have had a headache. Headaches are extremely common and almost everyone will experience them occasionally. It’s important, however, to recognize if headaches are reoccurring. This could be a sign of a headache disorder or underlying illness.

We spoke with Caitlin Marchenko, NP from the department of Neurology, to find out more about different types of headaches and when it is important to seek medical treatment to find out what may be causing them.

What are some of the causes of headaches?
There are many common types of headache. The most common is a tension headache and they are normally related to tightening of muscles in your head, neck, shoulders and/or jaw, stress, depression or anxiety. Tension headaches may be caused by a lack of sleep or drinking alcohol.i

A few other common types of headaches include migraine headaches, which involves severe pain, nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can be caused for various reasons including food choices, alcohol and/or lack of sleep. Cluster headaches, which are sharp, painful, recurring headaches, can also be triggered by various activities. And sinus headaches, felt primarily in the face and head are another type of headache caused by swelling in the sinus passages.

Who is most susceptible to experiencing headaches?
Headaches are extremely common and anyone can experience them. Nearly 12% of the US population suffers from migraine headaches. While they occur in both adults and children, they tend to affect adult women three times more often than men.

Migraines in women are usually related to changes in hormones, such as during the first menstrual cycle or during pregnancy. A majority of women will see improvement after menopause. You may be more likely to experience migraines if you have a family history.ii

When should I seek medical help for my headaches?
While headaches are common, keep in mind that some may be the warning sign of something more serious. Be sure to contact your health care provider if you any of the following:

Your headache comes on suddenly and is “explosive or violent.”
Your headache causes slurred speech, impaired vision, you experience
difficulty moving your arms or legs, balance is impaired, or you have memory loss.
You have a fever, stiff neck, nausea and vomiting with your headache.
Your headache occurs with a head injury.
You are over 50 and you just started getting headaches.
You have a history of cancer and develop a new headache.

Your healthcare provider will give you a head and nervous system exam to diagnose the cause of your headaches and to help you treat them.

Have you or someone you know been experiencing frequent headaches?
To book an appointment with Caitlin Marchenko, please call 508-210-5920.

275 Sandwich Street
Plymouth, MA 02360
(508) 746-2000

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