Disease: Exercise headaches


    Exercise headaches occur during or after sustained, strenuous exercise. Some activities associated with exercise headaches include running, rowing, tennis, swimming and weightlifting.

    Doctors divide exercise headaches into two categories. Primary exercise headaches are usually harmless, aren't connected to any underlying problems and can often be prevented with medication.

    Secondary exercise headaches are caused by an underlying, often serious problem within the brain — such as bleeding or a tumor — or outside the brain — such as coronary artery disease. Secondary exercise headaches may require emergency medical attention.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    Primary exercise headaches

    These headaches:

    • Are usually described as throbbing
    • Occur during or after strenuous exercise
    • Affect both sides of the head in most cases

    Secondary exercise headaches

    These headaches may cause:

    • The same symptoms as primary exercise headaches
    • Vomiting
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Double vision
    • Neck rigidity

    Primary exercise headaches typically last between five minutes and 48 hours, while secondary exercise headaches usually last at least a day and sometimes linger for several days or longer.

    When to see a doctor

    If you experience a headache during or after exercise, consult your doctor. Call your doctor right away if the headache begins abruptly or if it's your first headache of this type.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    Primary exercise headaches

    The exact cause of primary exercise headaches is unknown. One theory is that strenuous exercise dilates blood vessels inside the skull.

    Secondary exercise headaches

    Secondary exercise headaches are caused by an underlying problem, such as:

    • Bleeding in the area between the brain and the thin membranes that cover the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage)
    • Abnormalities in a blood vessel leading to or within the brain
    • Cancerous or noncancerous tumors
    • Obstruction of cerebrospinal fluid flow
    • Sinus infection
    • Structural abnormalities in the head, neck or spine

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    Your doctor will likely recommend an imaging test, especially if:

    • Your headaches last more than a few hours
    • Your headaches strike suddenly, like a thunderclap
    • You're older than age 40
    • You have other signs and symptoms, such as nausea, vomiting or vision disturbances

    In these cases, different types of imaging tests can help your doctor verify that you have the harmless variety of exercise headache, rather than the type caused by a structural or vascular abnormality.

    • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). This test uses a magnetic field and radio waves to create cross-sectional images of the structures within your brain.
    • Magnetic resonance angiography (MRA) and computerized tomography (CT) angiography. These tests visualize the blood vessels leading to and inside your brain.
    • CT scan. A CT scan uses X-rays to generate a cross-sectional image of your brain. This test can show fresh or recent bleeding into or around the brain and is often used if your headache occurred less than 48 hours beforehand.

    Sometimes a spinal tap (lumbar puncture) is needed as well, especially if the headache started abruptly and very recently and brain imaging appears normal.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com


    Exercise headaches tend to occur more often when the weather is hot and humid, or if you're exercising at high altitudes. If you're prone to exercise headaches, you may want to avoid exercising in these conditions.

    Some people experience exercise headaches only during the performance of certain activities, so they may prevent their headaches by avoiding these activities. A warm-up prior to strenuous exercise also can help prevent exercise headaches.

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

    Risk factors

    You may be at greater risk of exercise headaches if you:

    • Exercise in hot weather
    • Exercise at high altitude
    • Have a personal or family history of migraine

    Source: http://www.mayoclinic.com

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