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Do Headaches Kill Brain Cells?

Everyone experiences a headache now and then. The problem is when these headaches occur frequently and cause unbearable symptoms. Such headaches give rise to the fear whether they may cause brain cells to die.

According to research findings, headaches can cause changes in the brain cell. Studies have shown there is a possibility of brain damage due to oxygen shortage caused by headaches.

If you have a migraine headache, you need not start worrying about brain cell death. While this can happen, the chances of it happening are rare. Headache researchers are of the view that in the vast majority of people, headaches don’t kill brain cells.

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Can you die from tension headaches?

Tension headaches are the most common types of headaches people can experience. A tension headache can be episodic (happens infrequently) or chronic (occurs regularly).

Tension headaches cause mild or moderate symptoms that are not as severe as migraines. There usually would be some pain around the head, neck, and face. It is believed that nearly 2 out of 3 Americans would have experienced tension headaches at some time.

Since tension headaches cause moderate pain, they are not dangerous. There is no chance that you would die due to a tension headache. However, if the tension headache is occurring due to an internal problem like a tumor, then it could pose a problem

Can headaches kill you?

Can headaches kill? The answer is probably yes. A headache by itself does not kill any one.

The symptoms of the headache can be due to some serious underlying problem. A person could be having a tumor in the brain. Headaches can occur before a stroke.

When such a situation arises, then a headache can kill a person. The headache though is not the cause of death but one of the symptoms indicating something is seriously wrong.

A particular type of headache known as migraine can cause debilitating symptoms. A migraine is a headache that should not be ignored. This is a headache that can potentially kill.

There are certain symptoms of migraine that can be very dangerous and must never be ignored. If you face any of these life-threatening symptoms, then you must immediately go to a doctor.

  1. A migraine attack that does not resolve even after 72 hours.
  2. Seeing an aura that lasts for more than a week.
  3. Any seizure that occurs after or during a migraine.

These symptoms could be due to a stroke or any other serious complication. Immediate evaluation by a doctor is needed.

Difference between migraine brain vs normal brain

When you compare the brain of a normal person with the brain of someone having migraine, there are certain differences to be found. A study found that the somatosensory cortex area in the brain was 21% thinner in people who had migraine.

This was found in people who had been suffering from migraine since childhood. The study shows that there could be structural changes in the brain due to migraine. The thinner cortex could make the people extremely sensitive.

This is why people with migraine can suffer from other pains like jaw pain, back pain, and also sensitive skin.

What does a migraine do to your brain?

A migraine is a neurological problem affecting nerves in the brain. There is no clarity on exactly how symptoms develop. But by and large, scientists have understood how a migraine can affect your brain.

  • There could be a trigger like food or lack of sleep that starts the process. The trigger would activate the nerve cells causing blood vessels to swell.
  • A cortical depression can then occur. This is where brain activity can spread from the back to the front of the brain. The blood vessels become dilated and this reduces oxygen flow.
  • It is believed that this cortical depression is what causes auras.
  • There are other chemicals like serotonin that a released, which cause inflammation. This leads to the severe and throbbing pain that you experience.
  • These neurochemicals also affect the parts of the brain that affect appetite leading to nausea and vomiting.
  • Cutaneous allodynia is the skin becoming highly sensitive is something migraine sufferers experience. This is due to the combination of inflammation and chemical release.
  • The migraine then spreads to the CNS or central nervous system.
  • If medication is taken, the symptoms subside. Else, it can take up to 72 hours for the brain to return to normalcy. 

What are the long term effects of migraine on the brain?

People who suffer from chronic migraine are exposed to the risk of having their brain structure altered permanently. A study was carried out on people who experienced an aura with migraine.

The study showed that such people had a 68% increased risk of developing brain lesions in the white matter area. It could also infarct with blood supply being affected.

The long-term effects of migraine could lead to symptoms like vertigo, dizziness, nausea, and sensitivity to sound and light.

People with chronic migraine are at risk of developing depression, panic disorder, or strokes and heart attacks. These are not directly linked to the migraine though.

Do migraines cause memory loss?

95% of migraines do not cause serious problems. Complex migraines can occur that are accompanied by auras. The aura symptoms seem to resemble that of a stroke.

Some people with this problem may experience a brain fog. While memory can be affected temporarily, it is unlikely to cause memory loss on a long-term.

They may find it difficult to concentrate or form words. This is a temporary phenomenon, which is referred to as the migraine hangover. It is unlikely that this may lead to memory loss.

Can migraine cause brain tumor?

A worry that migraine sufferers have is whether their migraine can lead to a brain tumor being formed. There is no evidence whatsoever that a migraine can cause a brain tumor.

While migraines can lead to changes in the brain, it cannot cause a tumor. However, a person who has a brain tumor may get migraine.

Can sleeping with a headache kill you?

You are suffering from a severe headache, and you decide to go to sleep to recover. A fear you may have is can the headache worsen when you are asleep. Is there a chance of a person dying when they sleep with a headache?

For most people, sleeping is the best way to get relief from a headache. When you get a sound sleep, you can feel refreshed with reduced symptoms. But oversleeping can be a problem as it worsen the headache.

Headaches in most cases reduce after sleep. In some cases, they increase. But, there is almost no chance that sleeping when you have a headache can kill you.

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FAQs related to headaches killing brain cells

Go through the FAQs to know all about whether headaches can kill cells in the brain.

Can headaches damage your brain?

Of the various types of headaches, a migraine is what causes the most problems. It is a known fact that migraine can cause changes in the brain. But can it damage the brain?

The answer is no! Migraines do not cause permanent brain damage. However, there is a risk that people who suffer from migraines with aura may get a stroke. The risk in minimal and may affect 1 or 2 persons in every 100,000 persons.

According to expert, the risk involved is the same as the risk in being struck by lightning.

Can headaches kill neurons?

The neurons in the brain is what makes the brain work. People who regularly have headaches are worried if these neurons can be damaged by a headache.

A question they have whether headaches can lead to the neurons being destroyed. The answer is no! According to experts, headaches do not kill the neurons in the brain. While migraine can cause changed in the brain, it does not destroy the neurons.

Is headache can kill you?

A headache by itself cannot kill you. A headache can have severe symptoms that don’t resolve even after many hours. This could be indicative of something serious.

The headache can be due to a stroke in the brain or a tumor or any other such reason. The underlying cause of a headache can kill you, if it is serious.

Any new headache, particularly for people with migraine should be reported to a doctor. Whenever headache symptoms occur for too long or are accompanied by symptoms like weakness, vision loss, etc. seeing a doctor immediately is advised.

What happens in brain when headache?

When you have a headache, the blood vessels and muscles in the head region would undergo changes. They may swell or tighten. This causes pressure on the nerves leading to pain.

If the headache you are experience is a migraine, then are plenty of things that happen in the brain. The brain cells can be inflamed, and dopamine levels could decrease. The combined effect of both these cause severe pain.

There are also changes that occur in the gray matter in the brain. These changes could lead to increased symptoms.

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