LOS ANGELES (CBS) — Imagine having a pounding headache that refuses to go away.
Not just a day or two or even a week. But a year. Or two.
For 45 million Americans who suffer from chronic headaches many of them are now being diagnosed with “persistent headache.”
CBS2’s Serene Branson talked to headache sufferers and a doctor who said curing the pain is no easy task.
Rachel Frishberg remembers the exact moment her headaches started. “It was a Tuesday afternoon. The headache came on. I didnt think much of it .”
That was then. This is now. Two years later the headache is still there. “My headache is specifically in the back left of my head. ”
Two years and it hasn’t gone away. “I can go a couple of days with it being at a low severity and couple days of it being at a high severity. And I have no control or sense of what triggers it .”
Frank Ferrante also suffers from a persistent headache. “It’ts actually a dull ache that radiates right back on both sides of the head. ”
His pain started five years ago. And hasn’t really ever let up. He was building a tree house with his son when the pain hit. “The headache just really came on hard. It felt like man…I have to… first let me get out of this tree ’cause I’ve never felt anything like this in my head before.”
These are not migraines. And it’s more than an ordinary headache.
Dr. Patrick Lyden, the chairman of neurology at Cedars-Sinai says, “The typical patient that comes to me has had the headache for several months if not a few years.”
Often, says the doctor, these headaches are misdiagnosed as tension headaches, sinus pain or eye strain.
He adds, “Sinus headache is extremely rare — although you wouldn’t believe it from all the commercials on TV for decongestants.”
There are, according to the doctor, more then 150 kinds of headaches.
The triggers are tough to target but persistent headaches can be caused by migraines or contribute to cause the sufferer to have a “mixed headache” or “transformed migraine.”
“The most important thing to remember,” says the doctor, “there is no single cause, no single treatment. You have to look at the whole patient. Do they have migraine contributing, do they have muscle tension?”
Ferrante is now managing his pain with Verapamil, a blood pressure medication. “I think I’m one of the lucky people that’s found something that mitigates it. It’s a drain but I’m still a happy guy.”
Frishberg, who has tried Botox and at least 15 other medications to alleviate her pain, is still searching for some relief. “I’m hopeful this will go away as quickly as it came on that one afternoon or we’ll find some medication treatment that will help regulate it. And help me get back to work. ”