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Oh, My Aching Head

HeadachesHeadaches are extremely common; so much so that even many healthcare professionals view them as only a minor or trivial complaint. Nearly everyone has a headache occasionally but when they occur repeatedly, they are a symptom of a headache disorder. According to the National Headache Foundation, over 45 million Americans suffer from chronic, recurring headaches and of these, 28 million suffer from migraines. About 20% of children and adolescents also experience significant headaches.

There are several types of headaches; in fact, 150 diagnostic headache categories have been established. The most common types of headaches are tension headaches, migraines, mixed headache syndrome (a combination of migraine and tension headaches), cluster headaches, sinus headaches, acute headaches, hormone headaches and chronic progressive headaches.

Tension headaches are the most common among adults and adolescents and are basically a muscle contraction headache which causes mild to moderate pain that can come and go over a prolonged period of time. The least common type of headache is the cluster headache. Cluster headache pain is intense and may be described as having a burning or piercing quality that is throbbing or constant. Cluster headache pain is so severe that most sufferers cannot sit still and will often pace during an attack. The pain is located behind one eye or in the eye region, without changing sides.

Headaches are hereditary, especially migraines. Most children and adolescents (90%) who have migraines have other family members with migraines. When both parents have a history of migraines, there is 70% chance that the child will also develop migraines. If only one parent has a history of migraines, the risk drops to 25% – 50%.

Tension headaches affect over one third of men and over one half of women in developed countries. Headache disorders affect up to 1 adult in 20 every – or nearly every – day. Migraines affect at least 1 adult in every 7 in the world across all continents, but for reasons not yet known appear to be somewhat less common in the Far East. It is up to 3 times more common in women than men, a pattern seen everywhere. This difference is hormonally-driven. Migraine has been better studied than other headache disorders. Often starting at puberty, migraine most affects those aged between 35 and 45 years but can trouble much younger people, including children.

Headache disorders are painful and disabling. They can cause substantial personal suffering, impaired quality of life and high financial cost. Repeated headache attacks – and often the constant fear of the next one – can affect family life, social life and employment.

For the vast majority of people suffering from headaches, effective treatment requires no expensive equipment, tests or specialists. Headache disorders are mostly, and rightly, managed in primary healthcare. The essential components of effective management are awareness of the problem, correct diagnosis, avoidance of mismanagement, appropriate lifestyle modifications and informed use of cost-effective pharmaceutical remedies.;


  • By the end of open enrollment 2014 over 15 million Americans who didn’t have health insurance before the ACA was signed into law in 2010 are now covered, bringing the total uninsured adults in the U.S. from 18% to 13.4%. During the year many dropped their plans, or didn’t yet renew them for 2015. As of January of 2015 the current uninsured rate is 12.9% according to Gallup (average from fourth quarter of 2014). The change is on par with projections, and is expected to increase each year.
  • In August 2014, health officials said that the nasal spray is the preferred flu vaccine for children ages 2 to 8, because this vaccine has been shown to work particularly well in this age group. Studies show that in this age group, the nasal spray prevented 50% more flu cases than the flu shot, according to the CDC. However, if the nasal spray is not immediately available, parents should not delay vaccination, they should have their children get the flu shot instead, the CDC says.
  • The challenge of balancing work and family has grown as families have shifted so that today in most families all parents work and all parents contribute to caregiving.  Across married and single parent families, all parents are working in more than 60% of households with children, up from 40% in 1965.
  • In the 2014-15 academic year osteopathic medical colleges are educating over 24,600 future physicians – more than 20% of U.S. medical students.
  • The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) estimates that 371 million people live with diabetes worldwide. This amounts to 8.3% of the world population. Diabetes is not just a Western problem; 80% of all diabetes-related deaths occur in low to middle income countries, so finding ways of providing affordable access to healthcare is critical.


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