Cephalalgia or a headache can be more than just a PAIN in the head. An acute headache can indicate an immediate concern – something as mundane as indigestion or something entirely more threatening like a cerebral clot or aneurysm. Useful as an early indicator, acute headaches should not be ignored. When headaches become a chronic concern, a proper diagnosis can help you and your healthcare professional decide on the best course of treatment. There are different types of headaches, and as such, different treatment options available to target relief based on the variant type.
Cluster Headache is an uncommon type of primary headache that produces pain that is severe and focused in and around one eye. The pain might be described as sharp or burning and its quick onset and grouping of episodes is characteristic of this type of headache. Cluster headaches occur more often in men compared to women. Some patients may have a genetic predisposition for them. Cluster headaches may require prescription medications to treat and prevent future occurrences.
Tension Headache is the most common type of primary headache, producing pain that is constant in nature and can be felt around the head, neck, temples, shoulders, and back. This type of headache is often associated with stress and can be triggered by chemical imbalances in the brain. Rest and over-the-counter analgesics, like acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID), are typically enough to provide relief from tension headaches.
Migraine is the second most common type of primary headache. Its diagnosis follows a specific criteria which includes headache frequency, duration, and constellation of symptoms. Migraines are a disabling medical concern and as such many pharmacological therapies target this headache type. Commercially available drugs and even medical devices have been FDA approved for use in the treatment of migraines. FDA approved drug delivery methods include oral, intranasal, and injectable formulations. A transdermal gel containing an NSAID (Topofen, Achelios Therapeutics) is currently being studied and showing positive results. However, compounded topical migraine treatment has been in use for years. Compounding pharmacies licensed under Migraderm (see www.Migraderm.com) can formulate compounds that include not only NSAIDs but also a triptan; triptans are a class of drug that are the backbone of migraine therapy. Topical application of triptans can be useful in providing a quick, noninvasive, onset of therapeutic action. In addition, topical triptan application bypasses the gastrointestinal tract, which is useful for getting around associated migraine symptoms of nausea and vomiting. By bypassing hepatic metabolism, topical vs. oral application also yields greater systemic exposure to the active drug thus leading to increased efficacy.
Rebound Headache is a secondary type of headache brought on specifically by the inappropriate or overuse of some pain medications. Those with headache disorders can experience rebound headaches when treating their headaches or other painful conditions such as arthritis. Conservative and prudent use of pain therapy can thwart a rebound event.
For anyone suffering from acute or chronic headaches, immediate relief is paramount. Choosing the right medication for the headache type and using it at the correct dose and frequency can help cease cephalalgia quickly and effectively for sufferers.