Neuro-Ophthalmology
Headaches

Headaches are one of our most common health complaints.  Most people know headaches are not usually serious and are often triggered by such factors as stress, fatigue, caffeine, certain foods such as chocolate or alcohol.  Contrary to popular belief, eyestrain and vision problems are not major causes of headaches. 

Migraine headaches are a common type of headache.  The actual cause of migraine is not yet known.  Migraine headaches can run in families and even young children may have migraines. 

Common features of migraine headaches:
1.  The pain is often more severe on one side of the head, but it can be generalized.
2.  The pain is often accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
3.  It is not often associated with serous complications.
4.  Known triggeres include bright lights, menses, certain foods such as red wine, cheese and chocolate
     or withdrawal from caffeine.  Birth control pills and hormones can worsen migraine.  Migraines may 
     occur with a sudden increase or decrease in stress level.  Irregular sleep habits may also lead to 
     an increased number of attacks. 

Migraines can produce different symptoms in different people.  Migraine can cause:
1.  A visual display (aura) of jagged lines or blank spots (scotoma) commonly present in both eyes at
     the same time.   This aura can last anywhere from 5-45 minutes and then it resolves 
    spontaneously and completely without permanent eye damage.  The visual aura may be followed by
    a severe headache.
2.  A visual display without headache.
3.  A severe headache without other symptoms.

Diseases are the least common cause of headache.
1.  Headaches caused by eye disease are usually felt in the eye or in the brow on the side where
     the disease occurs.  These headaches are often associated with some other symptoms such as
     blurred vision, haloes around lights and an extreme sensitivity to light.
2.  Headaches may also be caused by high blood pressure, however, many people with high blood 
     pressure do not have headaches.
3.  Headaches caused by brain tumors or disease are rare.

Because headaches are such a common problem, a thorough medical examination by your family physician is advisable for any chronic or recurring headache.  Your ophthalmologist can also be of help in diagnosing the cause of headache, even though headaches are infrequently caused by eye disease or the need for glasses.  If eye disease is present, your ophthalmologist will be able to diagnose and treat the problem.  If there is a medical cause/disease in another body system, further testing or referral to another medical specialist may be advisable. 


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