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Migraines, Headaches & the Elderly

The Villas Senior Care Community Independent Living Skilled Nursing Care Assisted Living
Monday, 10 June 2019

There are many different kinds of headaches, with migraines being the most severe and most debilitating. A migraine is considered a neurological disease that affects 39 million men, women and children in the United States alone. Worldwide, nearly a billion people suffer from this debilitating disease.

The National Headache Foundation (NHF) recognizes June as “National Migraine & Headache Awareness Month”. Together with other organizations, the NHF works to gain awareness and recognition of headaches as a legitimate neurobiological disease, and to promote treatment options to those who suffer.

Here is a brief explanation of the major headache groups:

Types of Headaches

Tension Headache: Not considered a migraine, a tension headache is the most common. Emotional or even physical stress can trigger this kind of headache. They are characterized by a dull and steady pain that occurs on both sides of a person’s head.

Sinus Headache: A sinus headache is caused by mucus buildup from inflammation in the sinus cavities. These headaches often present in the morning when you first wake up. This is due to sinus pressure resulting from mucus that cannot drain out of the sinuses while we are sleeping. Typically a sinus headache will relieve itself once a person is up and moving, allowing the sinuses to drain.

Weather conditions have a large impact on sinus headaches, and sinus pain is also closely tied to symptoms of the flu and a common cold.

Cluster Headaches: A cluster headache occurs several times a day, affecting one side of a person’s head and even causing one eye to droop and water. These headaches are usually short-lived, but very painful and they do happen multiple times in a day. This cycle can go on for weeks at a time. A person who suffers from cluster headaches may experience them at the same time each year.

Migraine Headache: Migraines are considered the most severe and the most painful type of headache. Many people who experience migraines recognize the symptoms that lead up to a headache. The pain can last for hours or days, with side effects like vomiting, nausea, numbness or tingling and sensitivity to light and sound.

Headaches & The Elderly

The good news is that headache disorders typically decrease with age. So while people of all ages can experience any or all of the headache types noted above, at least in the elderly population they occur less frequently.

The incidence of migraines is more prevalent in younger adults, but tension headaches from stress are more common in the elderly. Due to comorbidities, polypharmacy (use of multiple medications) and other chronic conditions in the senior population, treating headaches can be challenging. Getting the proper diagnosis and medication to treat headaches might fall secondary to other medical concerns or conditions.

Learn More

Visit the National Headache Foundation’s website to learn more about headaches and what you can do to help raise funds and awareness. The Migraine Research Foundation also provides resources about headaches, treatments and research opportunities.

Please do not hesitate to speak with one of the nursing staff at The Villas Senior Care Community if you have any concerns about your loved one potentially suffering from a headache of any kind.