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Why am I having persistent headache?

Q: I am a 22 years old student suffering from headache for the past three days. Around three months back, I suffered from the same problem and went to a neurologist who told me that I am all right and the MRI scan was normal. Why am I having persistent headache?

A:Headache has many causes, though most of them are harmless and do not cause any serious problem other than headache itself.

The most common causes at this age are related to allergies (dust / cold/ food / perfumes / mosquito repellants etc) / circumstances like air-conditioning, excess exposure to screens, stress, medications, and eye related problems. Sinusitis or other mild viral infections, improper sleep, fasting, pollution, excess noise may also precipitate headaches.

If the headaches are short (lasting few hours) and mild, and respond well to painkillers, they usually do not need further attention. Persistent headaches or severe headache of sudden onset must be attended by a doctor, preferably a qualified neurologist.

The fear of brain haemorrhage or tumour is very common in these days of medical awareness. It is very uncommon for a person to have only headache in either of these cases. Usually vomiting, visual problems, imbalance, weakness on one side of body, fits (convulsions / seizures) etc. commonly accompany headache with these conditions. In case of brain haemorrhage, these features develop suddenly over a few minutes, whereas in case of tumours, they appear over days / weeks.

Very rarely, a mild headache may be the only warning sign of a serious illness relating to the brain. In case this is suspected, it is strongly recommended that the patient consults a qualified Neurologist, and undergoes an MRI brain test.

In your case, I would like to suggest that you try an antiallergic tablet like cetirizine 10 mg once a day for three days; with tablet paracetamol 500 mg thrice a day for three days (if you are allergic to these, please ask your physician for alternatives). If the headache still persists after you finish this course, please get an eye check-up done. If the headache still persists, please see a neurologist.

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