Headaches and Health


For about two months now, my best friend here at school has been having headaches. We’re not sure why, but I think that they’re happening because she got into a minor car accident a little while before she started getting headaches more often. Another one of my friends is freaking out because she thinks the situation might be a more serious medical issue (not that my theory wouldn’t be serious, too!). Meanwhile, the friend who is actually getting the headaches doesn’t seem so worried. She says they happen when she drinks, and that’s the real problem--and I’m sure that doesn’t help, but she never used to get a headache after just one or two drinks! She doesn’t want to see a doctor about it, but it’s scaring the rest of us. Can the experts shed any light on this situation? Should she see a doctor?

Here’s your short answer: yes! While it’s great that you and your friends recognize the need to consult the experts on this issue, the best expert to ask will be your friend’s doctor. Only her doctor will be able to give advice that’s tailored to her specific situation.

Speaking of doctors, brain surgeons will tell you that headaches are common and usually not the sign of anything dangerous--but they will also say that, in some cases, recurring headaches can indicate much larger problems. It’s unlikely that your friend has a brain tumor or other serious issue, but it would be foolish to ignore any dangers just because they are not necessarily likely.

If you are correct that the headaches started around the time of the car crash, they could be a sign of a concussion. Those in the auto industry say that one of the challenges of modern car design is limiting the dangers of concussions, which medical experts have gained a far greater understanding of over the past few decades. We now know that the brain is even more sensitive to some things than we thought, and that concussion can lead to more dangerous conditions--like CTE, for instance, which may be present in as many as 96% of former NFL players.

But that isn’t necessarily what is ailing your friend, either. Perhaps she’s not drinking enough water during her nights out: alcohol can cause dehydration, and dehydration can cause headaches. Or perhaps your friend is simply one of the 13% of Americans who suffers from migraines from time to time. It’s really impossible for anyone but your friend’s doctor to say, which is why you are absolutely right to urge her to go to a doctor. Show her this letter and explain your fears: she should know that her doctor is likely to make her feel less worried, not more worried, but that she can’t know the truth until she consults with the experts.

“I wish my name was Brian because maybe sometimes people would misspell my name and call me Brain. That’s like a free compliment and you don’t even gotta be smart to notice it.” -- Mitch Hedberg


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