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What causes headaches?

Headaches are most commonly caused by illness, skipping meals, and drugs. Headaches are often triggered by sleep problems, minor head injuries, or certain foods. Headaches can even be caused by prescription medication, such as birth control pills, tetracycline for acne, and high doses of vitamin A. Less commonly, headaches can be caused by a dental infection or jaw problems or eye problems. Only in veryrare cases are headaches a symptom of a brain tumor, high blood pressure, or other serious problems.

Types of headaches

The following are types of different headaches that a teen may experience:

  • Tension headaches: These often feel like a tight band is around your head. The pain is dull and aching, and typically felt on both sides of the head.
  • Migraines: These are often described as throbbing and usually are felt on only one side of the head, but may be felt on both. A migraine may make you feel dizzy or light-headed and sensitive to light, sounds, and smells. Migraines typically run in the family as well.
  • Psychogenic headaches: These headaches are less common. They are similar to tension headaches, except the cause is an emotional problem such as depression.

When to see a pediatrician

If you are worried about your headaches and they disrupt school, home and social life, then see your pediatrician. Headaches that are associated with a head injury, seizure/convulsion, and visual difficulties should be addressed to the pediatrician. Also, if a headache occurs more than once a week, wakes you up from sleep, or causes vomiting or facial and jaw pain, then an examination may be required with laboratory or x-ray tests.

How are headaches treated?

If you get tension headaches or mild migraines, your pediatrician may suggest an aspirin or aspirin substitute, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and rest. If you get more severe headaches or classic migraines, prescription medicine may be required. Your pediatrician may suggest that you keep a headache diary to help pinpoint information about what is causing the headaches. A headache diary helps you keep track of the following: when headaches occur, how long they last, what you were doing when the headaches start, what you had eaten, how much sleep you have had, and what seems to make the headaches better or worse.

Information on this site is intended for Angel Kids Pediatrics patients only. Always consult your doctor before beginning, modifying, or discontinuing any treatment plan.

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