PITTSBURGH, PA (KDKA), – We all get headaches at some point. But when does a headache become more than a headache?

Even the occasional headache, which can be crippling, can be a sign that something else is going on.

The pulsating and throbbing head can come from anywhere.

What causes headaches?

“That sounds like a very basic question, but we don’t know the answer,” says Dr. Andrea Synowiec. She is the Assistant Director of Allegheny Health Network Headache Centre.

Each person is unique. Dr. Synowiec stated that a variety of things can cause a pounding in the head.

“Eating certain foods can sometimes trigger some people. Red wine and beer are common triggers. Sometimes, simple lifestyle choices can trigger people.

Here we are talking about the basics.

“That would be dehydration.” Dr. Synowiec said that not managing stress or sleep deprivation was also a problem.

Thunderclap headaches are a type of tension headache.

“You feel fine, but then, like a thunderclap the headache becomes intense and severe.”

When can you tell that a headache could be a sign of a more serious problem? What if you have a brain tumour?

Dr. Synowiec stated that this is the most common concern of people who visit us. “The biggest ones are if there are neurologic symptoms and a headache. For example, if an arm stops working, or numbness occurs. You may not be able to see if you feel dizzy. “If it’s not just pain, it’s often good to speak with a doctor,” the doctor advised.

These are the exceptions. For most of us, headaches are a painful but temporary inconvenience.

Take two aspirins and call me in morning.

This is no longer the recommendation. Asprin can cause negative side effects. Other treatments are more effective.

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What do you reach out for when a headache strikes?

You may not be doing yourself any favors by reaching for something to stop the throbbing.

If you get a headache occasionally and take an over-the counter pain reliever, you are on the right path.

Dr. Synowiec says that these over-the-counter analgesics are safe and effective for many headache types.

What if your headache is more severe?

“Naproxen appears to be a good starting point. This drug is available under a variety of brand names. Ibuprofen can also be very helpful. We can think of a combination medicine called Excedrin. This can be more effective than anything else.”

The doctor said that persistent headaches can be a problem.

“Occasional use is fine. But repetitive, recurrent usage, that’s where we start to worry people.”

Dr. Synowiec believes that repeated use could indicate a larger problem.

The use of ibuprofen and other similar medications, such as Tylenol and naproxen, can cause liver, kidney and stomach problems.

If you’re a coffee drinker and you try to reduce your intake, you may experience headaches.

The caffeine can cause a headache in some people. It affects the nerves and blood vessels, which, when they withdraw, can cause a headache.

If you’re self-medicating for headaches, it is best to see a doctor.

Dr. Synowiec advises that if you have never had headaches before and are suddenly experiencing the worst headaches of your life, you should consult a doctor. Ignoring it is not worth risking discomfort or pain.