You have a big presentation due, but you can’t focus because your head is pounding — for the third time this week. Your significant other’s jokes of, “it’s a tumor,” in his best Arnold Schwartzenegger voice are starting to wear thin. You’re beginning to wonder if you should call the doctor.
If you’ve experienced unusual headaches, you may need to call your physician. If you suddenly feel like you’re having the worst pain of your life, you should visit the ER. However, new daily persistent headaches can result from unexpected causes — here are eight of them.
1. Food Allergy
There are headaches, and there is migraine disease. If anyone you know — or yourself — suffers the latter, you know that particular foods can trigger you. However, food allergies can cause head pain as well, without additional symptoms.
A food allergy differs from a migraine trigger in that it makes you sick every time you eat it, not only occasionally as triggers do. If you have such an allergy, you typically experience gastrointestinal symptoms like constipation and diarrhea, as well. Most people discover their allergies by practicing an elimination diet. Once you know what foods trigger your symptoms, curing your headaches is as easy as passing the asparagus (permanently).
2. Tooth Grinding
Bruxism encompasses a scope of behaviors that include the clenching and gritting of your teeth. Up to 70% of cases of this disorder stem from excess stress. You might grind your teeth even when you sleep.
Many people remain unaware they have bruxism until they crack or chip a tooth. You should see your dentist every six months for a checkup. If you frequently experience headaches, consciously reflect on your jaw. If you clench it often, special braces can stop the grinding and the pain.
3. Intestinal Disorders
It may sound counterintuitive, but your head pain could point to problems with your gut. Research indicates that people who regularly experience gastrointestinal symptoms such as constipation have a higher prevalence of headaches than those who do not.
Scientists believe a connection between disorders like celiac disease and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and migraine disease exist. However, they need to perform further research to understand the nature of this relationship.
4. Hormonal Shifts
If you’re female and you tend to get headaches at specific times of the month, a hormonal imbalance might be to blame. Your levels of estrogen and progesterone drop to their lowest right before menstruation, which is when many women experience this type of pain.
Some women, conversely, get headaches when they ovulate. To determine if hormones play a role, track your headaches over three months. If you notice they occur at the same time each month, make an appointment with your OB/GYN. Conditions like polycystic ovarian syndrome and endometriosis can cause hormonal disruption and impact your future fertility.
5. The Wrong Lighting
Do you stare at a computer screen for hours on end every day? If so, the light from your computer screen may trigger your head pain. You might need to move your monitor closer or farther away to prevent eyestrain. You may also benefit from a protector to reduce the blue light emitted from your device.
Flickering lights can also trigger headaches. If you live in an urban location, use blackout curtains to close out flashing neon at night. If flickering fluorescents trigger your pain, change the bulbs, or request a transfer to an area without such lights.
6. Hunger or Thirst
If you get a headache on a super hectic day, ask yourself, “Did I stop to eat lunch?” Excessive hunger or thirst can lead to headaches. Fortunately, pain from these factors is the easiest kind to treat — eat a snack or drink some water. Headaches resulting from hunger should disappear within 30 minutes of eating something.
7. New Sounds
Did you just move to an urban area and you’re just now starting to notice how loud the neighborhood outside your window is? Do you live near an airport? Did you just give birth to a particularly crying-prone infant? The sounds around us have a lot more of an effect on our health than many of us may realize, and many connections have been drawn between noises — both loud and subtle — and persistent headaches.
With one in four adults suffering hearing loss by the age of 55, this issue is worth looking into for more than one reason! If you can think of a possible source of noise that could be connected with your hearing loss, see your doctor or an otolaryngologist.
8. Chronic Disease
Finally, people who have chronic illnesses such as fibromyalgia and multiple sclerosis often experience more headaches than other people. Researchers aren’t clear why, but many scientists suspect that inflammation can cause pain elsewhere in the body. Some people develop chronic headaches or migraines that plague them for more than 15 days each month. This risk is why it’s essential to see your doctor if headaches become frequent. Abortive medications can sometimes prevent them from becoming intractable.
Stop That New Daily Persistent Headache
If you get more than your fair share of headaches, one of the factors above could be to blame. Try adjusting your lifestyle, and contact your doctor if that new daily persistent headache doesn’t become old news.