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May 27, 2009 > Do Headaches Interfere with Your Life?

Do Headaches Interfere with Your Life?

Learn More at Upcoming Women's Center Class

Headaches: It's hard to overestimate the seriousness of this common ailment and the impact is has on American life. An estimated nine out of ten adults in the U.S. will experience a headache at some time, with up to 50 million people suffering frequent headaches, says The Foundation for Better Health Care, a non-profit educational organization.

"Each year, headaches are responsible for 157 million lost workdays, 10 million doctor's visits and $50 billion in health care costs," the Foundation reports.

Of people who seek medical help for headaches, the vast majority have migraines. This type of headache is characterized by throbbing pain, usually located on one side of the head. It's often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine symptoms can be so disabling that sufferers are sometimes prevented from performing their normal daily activities. Migraines can last anywhere from four to 72 hours. Of the more than 29 million Americans, or 13 percent of the total population, who get migraines, about three-quarters are women.

"In my practice, I've found that most women - even those who are in relatively good health - suffer some type of headache at some time during their life," comments local obstetrician and gynecologist Sudeepthi Prasad, MD, who is on the medical staff at Washington Hospital in Fremont. "One message I'd like to get out to women is that there are things we can do to help."

Dr. Prasad will be the featured speaker at a free Headache Seminar for women on Tuesday, June 2, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m. in the conference room of Washington Women's Center at 2500 Mowry Avenue in Fremont. Held during National Headache Awareness Week, the seminar is one in a series of evening lectures on women-focused health topics sponsored by Washington Women's Center. In addition to the feature presentation with time for questions and answers, there will first be an opportunity for women to meet informally so they can share information and trade tips on healthy living. To reserve your place at the upcoming seminar, call (800) 963-7070.

During her presentation, Dr. Prasad will discuss the causes, mechanisms and treatment for headache. She'll talk about how headaches affect women throughout the different stages of their life, including adolescence and the child-bearing years and before, during and after menopause.

"For women who attend the seminar, I hope to help them better understand headaches and recognize when they should seek medical care," Dr. Prasad adds.

Experts report a link between migraine headaches and female hormone changes. The National Headache Foundation states that 60 percent of women migraine sufferers relate attacks to their menstrual cycle. However, it is believed that hormones are just one of many migraine-related triggers related to diet, activity, environment, emotions and/or medication.

According to the Mayo Clinic, "management of migraine has improved dramatically in the last decade. If you've seen a doctor in the past and had no success, it's time to make another appointment.

"Although there's still no cure (for migraine), medications can help reduce the frequency of migraine and stop the pain once it has started," the Clinic continues. "The right medicines combined with self-help remedies and changes in lifestyle may make a tremendous difference for you."

Besides migraines, the most common types of primary headaches, those that aren't due to any underlying physical condition, include:
* Tension-type headaches: Experienced by 78 percent of adults at some time during their life, the pain of this type of headache is a mild to moderate pressing or tightening on both sides of the head. The pain is not aggravated by routine physical activity, and there are no associated symptoms like nausea or sensitivity to light or noise. Tension-type headaches occur slightly more often in women than men.
* Cluster headaches: With symptoms similar to those of a migraine, this type of headache occurs in groups or clusters of attacks lasting for several weeks or months and then disappearing for extended periods of time. Of the estimated 1 million Americans who suffer cluster headaches, about 90 percent are men.

For more information about the services and programs available at the Washington Women's Center, call (866) 608-1301 or (510) 608-1301 or go to the Washington Hospital web site at

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