When Medicine Makes Headaches Worse
Difficult Diagnosis continued...
However, the symptoms can be somewhat different. The nausea and
sensitivity to light that are typical with migraine headaches are usually
absent in rebound headaches, and the pain can be anywhere on the head.
"The typical patient with rebound headaches will come in
and complain that he has headaches every day," says R. Michael Gallagher,
DO, founding director of the University Headache Center in Moorestown, N.J.
"The pain will escalate to a point where it's interfering with his life and
he's suffering from depression and anxiety, and simply not feeling like himself
Experts say any painkiller in your medicine cabinet is capable
of causing rebound headaches if you take it often enough and in a large enough
quantity. Over-the-counter medications that contain aspirin, acetaminophen
(such as Tylenol), and ibuprofen (such as Advil) can all cause rebound
headaches. However, overuse of medications that combine these painkillers with
caffeine, such as Excedrin or Anacin, are even more likely to cause a
"Over-the-counter medications with caffeine are among the
biggest culprits," Gallagher tells WebMD.
The overuse of prescription drugs can also cause rebound
headaches, especially drugs such as Fioricet and Fiorinal -- barbiturate
sedatives mixed with caffeine. Smith says that the overuse of a number of
narcotic painkillers, such as Darvocet, Tylenol with codeine, Vicodin, and
Lortab is also likely to result in rebound headaches.
For many sufferers, it's a combination of prescription and
over-the-counter medications that leads to the problem.
"A lot of people are taking both kinds," says
Gallagher. "They do it because they're desperate. They're in pain and even
if they're already on a prescription, they're easily influenced by commercials
on television for medications designed to treat headaches."
Smith says people often believe that if they can buy something
without a prescription, it can't really be that dangerous.
"I think that patients sometimes look at the disclaimers on
painkiller bottles and assume that the warnings are just perfunctory things
stuck in there by lawyers," says Smith. "However, if people followed
those warnings, they would be at a lower risk of developing medicine overuse