Home > Special Circumstances > Headaches in People Over 50

Headaches in People Over 50

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 13 Sep 2012 | comments*Discuss
 
Headache Migraine Younger 50 Fifty Older

For many adults the incidence of headaches after age fifty actually decreases and this can be a welcome relief. Those over fifty are less likely to suffer from migraines and cluster headaches. For others, however, headaches continue to be an enormous problem and may even begin due to other diseases and medications.

Underlying Problems

In adults over age fifty, the headache has a higher probability of being caused by an underlying disease than when it occurs in a younger person. More problems with blood flow and inflammation in people over fifty can lead to symptoms such as headache pain. Newer health worries may also exacerbate headaches that are already present. In addition, drugs taken for other health conditions such as blood pressure, for example, can cause rebound headaches. Some conditions that may be underlying headaches in a person over age fifty are:

  • Arthritis
  • Vascular changes in the brain
  • Blood clots
  • Brain tumors
  • Pulmonary disease

Hypnic Headache

One unusual headache that occurs in older adults, particularly those over age sixty-five, is a condition called hypnic headache. When this occurs, a person awakes during the night and experiences a headache that lasts for approximately half an hour. A typical pattern would be awakening once or twice during the night with head pain. The pain usually occurs on both sides of the head and stomach discomfort may also be present.

Migraines tend to decrease in frequency and also in severity, although visual disturbances may now be present without pain. Your medication and preventative treatment plan will need to address the changes you experience in your headache symptoms.

How Can Headaches Be Treated

Overall, treating migraines in older adults is similar to recommendations for all migraine sufferers. Non-prescription guidelines such as monitoring diet, keeping a consistent sleep routine and icing the afflicted area on the head are still preferred. There is some thought, however, that alternative therapies such as acupuncture and yoga are not likely to be as effective in an older cohort. This is, in part, due to physical limitations that may be present and also due to complications from other health conditions that may begin as people age.

When medicating, your doctor may prescribe a lower dose to treat your headache than is commonly used with a younger patient. As people age, their ability to metabolize and excrete drugs diminishes, so an equivalent dose to their younger counterparts could potentially be quite dangerous. Therefore, your response to the same drug changes as you age. Your doctor will choose an appropriate medication based on any co-existing medical conditions such as heart abnormalities. Amitriptyline, propranolol and verapamil are still used for migraine treatment, generally to prevent migraines from occurring.

One particular benefit with anti-depressant use in older adults is that these medications are often able to target both depression and headaches simultaneously. Beta-blockers may also be prescribed and used similarly to the recommendations for younger adults. Hypnic headaches are often treated with indomethacin. A major challenge in medicating adults over 50 is the presence of other conditions. Gastrointestinal and cardiac problems are more common and it can be frustrating for adults to have to take many pills each day to treat the entire array of ailments.

Be sure to ask your doctor questions regarding side effects and try to maintain a support network of family and friends. If you have a lot of medications to take in addition to your headache prescription, and find it difficult to keep track, try purchasing a pill compartment. These organize medications into daily doses and some even have separate compartments for morning and evening doses.

Golden Years

If you are an adult over age 50 who is experiencing headaches for the first time, it is important that you receive a full medical evaluation. If you have already been experiencing them and find the pattern has changed, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider about new options. Many people look forward to the middle years when retirement is near and some of the stresses of the younger years have faded. By addressing your headaches now, you can spend more time enjoying these 'golden years.'

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopfully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Mumof3
    Re: Headache With Pins and Needles: Is This Serious?
    I have pins and needles beneath my feet, it has been there for three days now- and hasn't gone away.…
    25 March 2017
  • Ms. Haider
    Re: Headaches and Eyesight
    I wear soft contact lenses in the day time and take them out only when I'm ready to sleep. Even then if the contacts are out and I close…
    12 March 2017
  • Stassie
    Re: Migraine Classification
    My daughter has been diagnosed with migraine as she has most of the symptoms, so her neurologist said it was a classic one; He prescribed…
    10 March 2017
  • Alexandra
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    I had hit ny head on a table and got a headache and it was getting worse so i went home, in the car i had passes out and my mom…
    10 March 2017
  • Alleycat
    Re: Headaches During The Night
    I have started walking with a headache about an hour after falling asleep.This happens at night or if I am sleeping during the day.…
    10 March 2017
  • Jad
    Re: Headaches and Iron Deficiency
    For the last year I've been getting shooting pains up and down the left side of my head which was diagnosed as trigeminal…
    8 March 2017
  • Stassie
    Re: Headaches Caused by Tensions and Stress
    Hi, My daughter, 16, has been diagnosed with having tension headaches, (via CAT scan and MRI) when she was 11. Since…
    7 March 2017
  • DUNK
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I have suffered severe eye, scalp, jaw pain for 5 years. The pain has been so bad I have thought about suicide more than once. The…
    6 March 2017
  • "common-cold antenna
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I've had this pain on my scalp in approximately the same area for a long time ( about 26yrs ). It happens just before I get a bout…
    26 February 2017
  • Julie
    Re: What is the Headache Impact Test?
    I wake up with severe headaches in the middle of the night. What do i do to stop it
    12 February 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the HeadacheExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.