What is Barometric Pressure Headache: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Prevention

What is Barometric Pressure Headache?

The pressure applied on the body by the air or air pressure is called barometric pressure; and any changes in it can cause headaches, which are known as barometric pressure headache, as our body’s sinuses are filled with air.

Any type of headache, especially migraine or severe headache can be very debilitating for the person experiencing it. Not knowing when the next headache is coming can make it hard to make plans or in some cases to fully enjoy life.

You should start paying more attention if your headaches come on after or during weather changes. Sometimes headaches are caused by the changes in barometric pressure, thus it is important to take precautions beforehand of upcoming weather changes if barometric pressure is the cause.

What is Barometric Pressure Headache?

What are the Symptoms of Barometric Pressure Headache?

A drop in the barometer’s pressure levels triggers barometric pressure headaches. It is hard to differentiate between barometric headaches and the common headache or migraine. Barometric pressure headaches have additional symptoms from a normal headaches such as:

  • Vomiting and nausea.
  • Increased sensitivity to light.
  • Numbness in the face and neck.
  • Pain in the temples.

If you experience these symptoms when it is rainy, then you may have barometric pressure headaches.

What are the Causes of Barometric Pressure Headache?

A difference is created between the pressure in the air in your sinuses and the outside air when the external barometric pressure lowers and the result of which is the pain which is termed as barometric pressure headache. The same thing happens when traveling by airplane. As the air pressure changes with increase in altitude on takeoff, one experiences pain or ear popping sensation.

A drastic change in barometric pressure isn’t necessary to cause headaches. A 2015 study revealed that small barometric changes induced migraines in people suffering from chronic migraines.

Another study conducted in Japan showed similar results. About 28 people who had a history of migraine were asked to keep a headache journal for 365 days. When the barometric pressure was lowered by 5 hectopascals (hPa) than the day before yesterday, it was noticed that frequency of migraine increased. When the barometric pressure was higher by 5 hectopascals (hPa) than the day before yesterday it was noticed that frequency of migraine decreased.

How is the Diagnosis of Barometric Pressure Headache made?

Currently there’s no specific test for diagnosis of headaches caused by barometric pressure changes. Therefore, it’s important to aid your doctor in helping you as much as you can. The doctor will arrive at the diagnosis by asking the patient questions such as:

  • The time of the occurrence of the barometric pressure headache.
  • The duration of the barometric pressure headache.
  • What worsens or alleviates the barometric pressure headache.

It is important to keep a headache journal for about a month before reviewing with your doctor, as the headache journal helps in answering their above questions more accurately and also helps in identifying any headache pattern, which was not obvious before.

The doctor will perform a complete headache workup on the patient suffering from barometric pressure headache. Patient’s past medical history and family history of suffering from migraines or chronic headaches is taken. The doctor can also conduct some tests for diagnosis such as: blood tests, neurologic exam, MRI scan, CT scan and lumbar puncture.

What is the Treatment for Barometric Pressure Headache?

Treatment for barometric pressure headaches depends on the patient and the severity of the headaches. Some patients find relief from barometric pressure headache by taking over-the-counter pain medications, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, and Excedrin which is a combination medicine consisting of acetaminophen, aspirin and caffeine.

If the patient does not find relief from barometric pressure headache with OTC medications, then prescription medications are prescribed which can include: triptans, ergotamines, anti-nausea medications, codeine and other opioids. It is important to take these medications under the guidance of the doctor to avoid dependency and addiction to them.

In severe cases of barometric pressure headache, patient may be given Botox injections and even nerve decompression surgery may be needed.

Is There Any Way To Prevent Barometric Pressure Headaches?

In order to prevent barometric pressure headaches it is important to be aware of the headache patterns. The sooner the patient identifies or anticipates the oncoming headache the better the patient can treat or prevent it.

For preventing barometric pressure headache it is important to take the prescribed medication on time and when there is the first sign of the headache starting such as development of aura, ringing in your ears, nausea etc.

Other things which can prevent the development of barometric pressure headache include:

  • Getting 7 to 8 hours of sound sleep every day.
  • Exercising regularly.
  • Drinking at least eight glasses of water in a day.
  • Avoiding stress and practicing relaxation techniques.
  • Avoiding skipping meals and always consuming a balanced diet.

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