Allergy, Headache and Migrain
Most everyone has had a headache at some time, but there are people who cannot function on a daily basis due to headache pain. Many people go to physicians for headaches, in fact, headaches are the ninth most common cause of physician visits. Some headaches are caused by serious medical conditions and may need medical treatment.
Migraines, which come on an average of 1-2 times per month, may last anywhere from 3 hours to 3 days each. The pain, may vary from throbbing to moderate, often comes on gradually. Sometimes it starts on one side of the head and then switches sides. People report seeing lights, rainbows and blurred vision. There may also be loss of appetite, nausea or vomiting.
More women than men complain of headaches. Usually migraine patients have a family background of headaches 80% of the time. 43% of migraine sufferers complain of eye symptoms. According to many studies, most sufferers have other symptoms: hay fever, eczema, travel sickness and a history of digestive tract problems.
The Allergy Connection
Migraines are often a reaction to an allergen, which in turn, irritates the blood vessels. In migraines, an artery, most commonly the superficial temporal artery, becomes constricted at first, then the same segment of the artery becomes widely dilated, and overstretched. The pressure of the blood carried in the artery increases the pain, whereas compression of the artery with the hands on the side of the head over the dilated segment will cause relief of pain. The control of blood vessel tone is through the autonomic nervous system. Thus many natural treatments are directed at the nervous system and blood vessels.
The most common triggering agents for migraines are alterations in serotonin metabolism (a deficiency), food allergies (in order of the most common- wheat, citrus fruit, eggs, tea, coffee, chocolate, milk, salt, corn, cane sugar, yeast, alcohol, cheeses, onions), low magnesium levels, hormonal imbalances, histamine-induced platelet aggregation (blood platelets sticking together). Migraine headaches can also be triggered by eyestrain, poor posture, stress, sleep excess or deficiency, weather changes, blood sugar imbalances and drug use.
Allergy headache is due to an allergic reaction to certain substances or agents that are incompatible with the human body. Though allergy headaches are very painful, they can be easily treated and prevented.
Some migraine patients with a sensitive nervous system are prone to attacks provoked by certain types of light and smells. In case an allergic substance exists in the environment, the respiratory and nasal tract reacts unfavorably. The immune system of the body fights against these agents. As a result, certain chemicals are released which cause nasal congestion, sneezing and drainage.
Types of Allergy Headaches
There are mainly three types of headaches caused by an allergic reaction. These are:
- Sinus Headaches: Pain behind the eyes, forehead, nose and cheeks, characterize sinus headaches.
- Migraines: Migraines may be both severe and mild. They are accompanied by throbbing pain on either side of the head, nausea, vomiting and a heightened sensitivity to loud noise and bright light. Migraines are often hereditary and passed on in a family from one generation to another. Migraines can be broadly classified into two categories: classic and common. Classic migraine lasts for long durations and is quite severe. It is characterized by an aura, that is, partial loss of vision. Common migraine is less severe and its duration is shorter. It is not preceded by an aura.
- Cluster Headaches: This type of headache begins all of a sudden and is more common in men than in women. It lasts for about forty to ninety minutes and in some cases beyond that. The condition usually occurs at the same time daily for several weeks. This period is called the cluster period and it may continue for three to eight weeks. It may reoccur after three or four months. The common symptoms of this type of headache are pain around one eye, red and swollen eyes and head and restlessness.
Causes of Allergy Headaches
- Food allergy: Food allergy is the most common cause that triggers persistent, recurrent migraine headaches in many people. Avoiding foods that triggers headache can give total relief to the sufferer.
- Seasonal allergy: A number of people suffer from seasonal or respiratory allergies that cause headaches. This headache starts from the sinuses or nasal passage. Diagnostic tests and medical examination can help to solve such a condition.
- Chemical allergy: Naturally occurring food chemical and additives like monosodium glutamate can cause headaches. These chemicals are flavoring agents that are commonly found in packaged and oriental foods. Other chemicals that may cause allergy migraines are tyramine found in cheese, phenylethylamine found in chocolate, or alcohol. Aspartame, the artificial sweetener is also said to cause headaches.
Treatment of Allergy Headache
To treat Allergy headache, it is important to determine the exact trigger of the headache. In case it is caused by food allergy, then one must consult the doctor immediately. This is very important, as food allergies can be fatal. In case the cause behind the headache is seasonal allergies, then allergy medication is effective. Allergies caused by changes in weather can also be treated successfully with medications.
People who frequently suffer from allergy headaches should keep allergy medications handy. This will be very helpful as these medicines can help in avoiding severe pain that is associated with allergy headaches.
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