If you experience headaches every day, you likely have a condition known as chronic daily headache. Generally speaking, the difference between episodic and chronic headaches is the frequency. Episodic headaches happen “sometimes,” while chronic headaches happen “all of the time.” To be exact, chronic daily headaches occur for 15 days or more per month for longer than than three months. Episodic headaches happen less than 15 days per month. Acute headaches refer to a flare up, or exacerbation, of the headache regardless of if the headache disorder is in an episodic or chronic daily headache frequency. Depending on the specific type of headache disorder, the acute headache attacks can last a number of minutes, up to days or weeks.
The true causes of many types of headaches are not known and involve many variables. Most chronic daily headaches are from primary headache disorders, meaning there is not something specific or bad causing the headache (such as a head injury or brain tumor). The 4 most common types of primary headache disorders causing chronic daily headache are chronic tension type headache, chronic migraine, new daily persistent headache (NDPH), and hemicrania continua, in that order. Chronic migraine and chronic tension type headaches are often being fueled by medication overuse headache (rebound headache). Some chronic daily headaches are the result of an underlying condition, such as head injury, brain tumor, etc. These are called secondary headaches, because they are being caused by something else. This is why any type of headache requires a visit with your doctor for a more detailed history and examination.
Sometimes, there are certain symptoms that accompany frequent daily headaches, and these associated symptoms help determine the specific headache type. These can include: head pain that evolves from one or both sides of the head or radiates from one point; nausea or vomiting; sweating; sensitivity to light or sounds; stuffy or runny noses if the headache is sinusoidal in nature; redness or tearing of the eyes.
What Is Causing Me To Have Headaches Every Day?
There are a wide variety of potential causes for chronic daily headaches, which is why any headaches, especially daily headaches, require an evaluation with your doctor. The general cause of chronic daily headaches often tend to be a mixture of factors such as: tightness of muscles in the neck, shoulders, and head; trigeminal nerve issues; hormonal changes; environmental factors, medication overuse headache, also known as rebound headache (such as excess over the counter pain medications), excess caffeine (or caffeine withdrawal headache) and genetics. However, many other conditions and diseases may also be causing your chronic daily headaches, a few of which are mentioned below. There are a wide array of medical conditions that can also contribute to headaches, and this is why it is important to see your doctor about any type of headache problems.
Some other medical conditions, like anemia, can also cause frequent daily headaches. Anemia is a condition where your blood cells have difficulty transporting oxygen throughout your body. This can be the result of an iron deficiency, lack of Vitamin B, and folic acids. There is also a condition called sickle cell anemia where your red blood cells are not formed correctly and cannot carry adequate levels of oxygen. Typically speaking, more severe cases of anemia will result in chronic daily headaches.
Chronic daily headaches are also associated with certain types of chronic disease like fibromyalgia, lupus, and diabetes. Typically, these diseases are accompanied by other symptoms. Lupus, for example, comes with joint pain and skin lesions. Diabetics tend to get headaches when their blood sugar levels are low. Fibromyalgia patients typically have a lot of musculoskeletal pain throughout the neck and shoulders, and this can also influence headaches.
Lack of Sleep
Sometimes, exhaustion over a long period of time can cause headaches to persist. Insomnia is a common trigger for daily headaches. People who suffer from sleep apnea often will experience frequent daily headaches in the morning. Sleep apnea sufferers receive less oxygen to their brain than regular sleepers. Untreated and undiagnosed sleep apnea can result in frequent morning headaches and lead to other issues like heart conditions,higher blood pressure, excessive daytime fatigue, memory and cognitive complaints. Heavy snoring is often a clue, and when a bed partner notices the patient seems to stop breathing at times or gasps for air during sleep, this is almost certain sleep apnea. The medical term is obstructive sleep apnea because during certain stages of sleep, the muscles in the neck and throat relax and collapse, causing obstruction to the airways.
Stress and Frequent Daily Headaches
Stress is another issue that can cause frequent daily headaches. According to Excedrin’s website, if your stress increases by 10 percent, you are likely to experience 6.3% more days per month where you have a headache. If you suffer from migraines, you will have them 4.3% more often. Eliminating stress will potentially help reduce your chronic headache frequency and could potentially eliminate them altogether. Stress is one of the biggest migraine triggers.
If you have chronic sinusitis, you may have headaches that accompany it. This is caused by infection, nasal polyps, and swelling of the lining in your sinuses. The most common way to deal with chronic sinusitis is nasal corticosteroids, saline irrigation, or oral/injected nasal corticosteroids. In some cases, aspirin sensitivity can cause sinusitis, but these instances are pretty rare. Occasionally, surgery may be necessary to clear out sinuses. However, it is important to remember that many times sinus symptoms in the setting of headache are actually migraine. The reason is because migraine originates in the trigeminal nerves. The trigeminal nerves also innervate all of the sinuses and teeth. So, when the migraine is triggered by the trigeminal nerves, many times the sinuses are also activated. The result is headache with sinus symptoms, which is most often misdiagnosed and mistreated as “sinus headache”.
An unknown allergy may be an uncommoncause of your headaches too. This can be related to excess histamine release along with significant sinus inflammation, fluid buildup, and blockage. If you have an allergic reaction that leads to a chronic headache condition, you will likely have a headache that is located very close to your sinuses.
COVID-19 Long-Haul Headaches
In some people who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, the COVID-19 headache that accompanies it in some individuals can last for several months or longer. Along with the headache, some patients also develop many other associated persistent symptoms called long COVID syndrome. This headache is usually a whole-head, severe-pressure, persisting type of headache, although the pain and locations can vary widely. They can also have migraine features and many times presents as New Daily Persistent Headache (NDPH). There are a wide variety of treatment options as discussed here.
Trigeminal Nerve Issues
The trigeminal nerve is The reason for this is because the trigeminal nerve innervates many structures including the face, sinuses, teeth, TMJ areas, and everything inside the skull including the arteries in the brain. Some people have chronic daily facial pains which they refer to as chronic daily headache, so let’s touch on that too. More severe trigeminal nerve problems can cause severe facial pains, such as trigeminal neuralgia. Trigeminal neuralgia tends to occur in older patients (over 50) and more often in women. However, it can certainly occur across all age groups and not uncommonly in men as well. This condition can impact men, too. Simple tasks such as brushing your teeth, putting on makeup, or any other interaction with your face can produce a short bout of excruciating pain, and in some instances, longer cases of pain, and even daily continuous levels of varying facial pain. This condition often occurs because of aging, could be related to multiple sclerosis (particularly in younger patients), or other issues, like a tumor or aneurysm compressing on the trigeminal nerve. To deal with this type of headache, your doctor might prescribe an antiseizure or antidepressant medication (certain ones work well on pain pathways such as irritated nerves), and in some cases surgery depending upon your condition.
Treating Headaches That Happen Every Day
If you get a headache every day, you will likely need to be treated for the condition that is causing your headache, such as diabetes, elevated blood pressure, or other medical conditions that may become uncovered as the headache is evaluated. However, there are certain things that you can do to help reduce chronic daily headaches, like drink plenty of water, avoid caffeine, stay away from alcohol, certain types of foods, and other common headache triggers. Reducing stress is also going to help reduce chronic daily headaches. Eliminating medication overuse headache (rebound headache) is a key factor necessary for headache improvement to occur, if present.
Certain headache preventive treatments and medications may include beta blockers, tryglycric antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, and NSAIDs can help deal with chronic daily headaches. In some instances, Botox can help deal with chronic daily headaches if they are chronic migraine.
Seek Help For Your Chronic Daily Headaches
In the United States, while there are not many of them, there are health professionals dedicated to the pursuit of headache medicine. There are around 720 doctors who are UCNS-certified headache specialists, and have taken an interest in treating headache disorders. There may be one of these health professionals in your state who can help you deal with your headache.
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