Headaches and Migraines

What pain relievers are safe to take for tension headaches if you have cirrhosis of the liver?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I have cirrhosis of the liver. I also get tension headaches. What pain reliever can I take for my tension headaches?

DEAR READER: One of the liver's many jobs is detoxification -- ridding the blood of toxins. Cirrhosis, a liver disease, interferes with the liver's ability to detoxify substances in the blood. Your liver sees medications as toxins. When your liver is compromised, medications that are normally considered "safe" may no longer be safe for you.

What can I do to prevent my painful cluster headaches?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I get excruciatingly painful cluster headaches. What can I do to treat, or better yet, prevent them?

DEAR READER: Cluster headaches are rare. Only about one adult in a thousand suffers from them. But they are among the most painful of all headaches. We doctors have theories about what causes cluster headaches, but the fact is that we don't really know. They do run in families: There is an inherited, genetic component.

What could be causing my chronic headaches?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I've had a headache every day for six months, despite taking painkillers every day. What could be causing the headaches? And what can I do to stop them?

DEAR READER: Most people who suffer from frequent headaches don't have them every day. If your headaches have literally been with you "every day for six months," and this is something new for you, consult your doctor. While your headaches still could be one of the two most common causes of headaches -- migraine headaches or tension headaches -- they also could point to something more serious.

What can I do about tension headaches?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I get tension headaches. Over-the-counter pain relievers help, but not completely. What else can I try?

DEAR READER: Tension headaches are the most common type of headache. They cause a dull tightness or pressure in a band-like pattern across the forehead or in the back of the head. Sometimes the entire head hurts.

Can acupuncture relieve chronic headache pain?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I suffer from chronic tension headaches. Do you think acupuncture might help?

DEAR READER: Acupuncture has long been used to treat headaches. But until recently, there hadn't been strong evidence to support its use for headache pain. Two large scientific reviews have changed that. One review found that acupuncture may help people with episodic or chronic tension headaches. The other review found that acupuncture may prevent migraine headaches as well as or better than medications.

What can I do for terrible sinus headaches?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I get terrible sinus headaches during allergy season. Antihistamines help, but not completely. What else can I try?

DEAR READER: I see many patients during allergy season complaining of sinus headache pain. It occurs most often in the center of the face, the bridge of the nose and the cheeks. And it's sometimes accompanied by nasal congestion and clear or opaque nasal discharge.

What can cause recurring headaches?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm a 47-year-old woman. Lately I've been getting headaches several times a week. Should I see a doctor?

DEAR READER: I think anyone who is having frequent headaches can benefit from medical attention. That's especially true if they're interfering with your ability to function. I'm assuming that you have not been bothered by frequent headaches earlier in your life. In a person who's 47 and is having frequent headaches for the first time, it is very important to get them evaluated.

How can I prevent migraines?

DEAR DOCTOR K: I'm plagued by frequent migraines. I take medications to treat the migraines once they've started, but I'd rather prevent them in the first place. Any suggestions?

DEAR READER: Migraines can be debilitating. The severe, throbbing headaches are typically accompanied by nausea, vomiting or loss of appetite. Many migraine sufferers also develop blurry or distorted vision, or see pulsating lights or dark spots. Most migraines last from four to 12 hours, but they can last much longer.