Frustrating head pain
December 27, 2017 12:27 AM   Subscribe

Looking for perspectives on my headaches/dizziness/head pressure and stomach irritation (and possible connection), as the doctor has so far not been much help

Symptoms: headaches that feel like sinus/pressure headaches, i.e., pain and pressure in temples and forehead, tightness and pressure in front of face near nose. Temporary plugged ears. “Band” of pressure around head. Tingling in fingers and nose and lips. Stomach feeling swollen, very sensitive to overeating and alcohol. A long struggle with acid reflux and IBS. Throbbing feeling in stomach, sternum area, head, temples, all over after overeating or otherwise irritating stomach. Feels like high blood pressure but nothing out of the norm during blood pressure readings. Typically gets worse throughout the day. Doesn’t happen every day. Possibly linked to caffeine consumption, which seems to irritate the stomach, but I have been avoiding caffeine lately and still getting waves of this problem. Occasional wooshing in ears, while sitting, standing, or lying down. Dizzy when I stand up too quickly.

Medications: Zyrtec, low dose Zoloft, low dose Wellbutrin, 20mg Nexium. I am trying to come off the Nexium by being more sensitive to what I eat but it’s been difficult. Seems unrelated to menstrual stages or changes. Cleared up somewhat after taking pseudoephedrine for a cold, making me wonder if my allergies are contributing; but the stomach connection confuses me.

Doctors have so far not really understood my description of my symptoms in any meaningful way; they suggested cutting caffeine and possibly allergies but had few other useful suggestions. This hasn’t been happening all my life, but it has happened here and there over the years, and is now just particularly bad. I’m really wondering if anyone else has dealt with this, as it can be quite debilitating in almost a migraine aura type of way; I generally get very tired and not very sharp, and painkillers don’t always do much for my head. Stress and anger tend to exacerbate it.

My theories: ulcer, anxiety, allergies, caffeine allergy. None of these really explain much, though. Any experiences with symptoms like this?
posted by stoneandstar to Health & Fitness (13 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Post nasal drip can irritate the stomach as well maybe try a different allergy medication?
posted by AlexiaSky at 12:43 AM on December 27, 2017

Do you get any vertigo/does the dizziness come with nausea? Maybe it's partially a tenacious infection that's affecting your inner ear that's stressing all your systems and exacerbating other things. Could you see an ENT specialist?

Please keep fighting and push for help and for your doctors to take your pain and discomfort seriously. The more of us who stick up for ourselves now, the less of us will have to in the future.
posted by Mizu at 2:02 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

“The most common side effects with NEXIUM may include: headache. diarrhea. nausea. gas. abdominal pain. constipation. dry mouth. drowsiness.” via a google search on Nexium side effects. Please also look into something called SIBO. My young son has SIBO due to a lifetime of PPi use. He describes his pain as ‘my belly is hot/on fire’ and has constipation. Every body is different and presents with different symptoms. His pediatric GI told me it couldn’t be SIBO and didn’t want to test- I insisted and it was. Just something to consider.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 2:08 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

I've been having very similar issues and not much help although I do think my doctors are trying (I have a GP and a neurologist now). It seems to be possibly something affecting my vagus nerve, although I have lymph nodes that are swollen at times so they aren't sure. But working theory is that it's coming from the neck. MRI showed minor changes, nothing much and a long course of stiff antibiotics did nothing much. Trigger point injections helped a bit, as did a round of steroids, as did active release/ rolfing but not a real fix. I'm pushing for a standing/ seated MRI next on the theory this is all coming from my neck. It's very frustrating as it's very hard to read or think straight when my head gets full of pressure like this- it's hard to articulate how debilitating it is. It's like my spine throbs and I can't see properly (verified by opthamologist, my vision does change quite dramatically and it's not neuritis, it's correctable every time. With a different correction.)

I did try taking Allegra daily for a while and I think it might have helped a bit but hard to say. I do not have a history of allergies or asthma and extensive testing showed only some minor reactions to one or two random chemicals. I have always been a healthy eater and giving up alcohol caffeine sugar etc for months made no difference.I do not take PPIs, I have never had an ear infection as far as I know in my life. It is made worse by exercise consistently but no abnormal BP readings other than the odd low heart rate, which is pretty normal for me. I've had migraines all my life and this isn't a migraine or an aura.

It's not all the time but it's debilitating when it happens and I'm pretty over it! If you figure something out let me know.
posted by fshgrl at 2:17 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Food allergies have these same effects on me.
posted by MexicanYenta at 2:43 AM on December 27, 2017

Something minor to try, if you haven't already, is taking a decongestant (though not pseudo ephedrine since you're on wellbutrin!) along with the antihistamine. A number of years ago I ended up with plugged ears, vertigo, and sinus pressure/headaches from taking antihistamines alone.
posted by A hidden well at 5:08 AM on December 27, 2017

Have you tried a migraine medication like a triptan? When someone says "I have classic migraine symptoms plus GI stuff", I tend to think migraines, since migraines can produce GI problems. I have both migraines and that "high blood pressure" feeling if I eat a large or rich meal. Migraine sometimes gets underdiagnosed because people tend to assume they have "migraine-like" symptoms rather than migraine - I didn't realize I was getting very obvious, standard migraines until I was in my thirties, even though I'd had them since I was a small child.

In any case, it might be worth seeing if your doctor could prescribe you a couple of pills of a triptan to try the next time this all happens, if only to rule out migraine. For me they've been totally transformative.

(Also, you can get very frequent/chronic migraine - if this is happening more than ten times a month and it does respond to migraine treatment, your doctor will recommend a non-triptan approach...but first, see if it responds.)
posted by Frowner at 5:28 AM on December 27, 2017 [5 favorites]

Blood glucose high?
posted by blue_wardrobe at 6:18 AM on December 27, 2017

Your symptoms immediately got me thinking migraine too.
posted by wwax at 7:23 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Migraines are under diagnosed, I agree. A doctor who knows the migraine basics would be my first stop
posted by Jacen at 9:12 AM on December 27, 2017 [1 favorite]

Sounds like migraine to me, too. For years I thought I had sinus problems, or tooth problems. Turned out to be good old chronic persistent migraines. For which there isn't much in the way of treatment, sorry. But Imitrex works, and some people get help from high blood pressure medications. Drink lots of water, and try not to tax yourself physically, as over-exertion can bring them on (and on and on).
posted by Enid Lareg at 1:37 PM on December 27, 2017 [2 favorites]

I started getting pressure headaches and tingling in my hands and part of my face (and sensitivity to light) 2-3 months after getting bitten by a deer tick. I believe the tick bite was the cause, but I did not test positive for lyme disease or have a rash and fever after getting bitten. I did not get any symptoms relating to my digestive system. It was diagnosed by my regular doctor as a complex migraine.
posted by Blue Genie at 5:50 PM on December 28, 2017

I got headaches just like that when I had a concussion (and for a very very long time afterwards). Have you hit your head?
posted by The corpse in the library at 5:03 PM on December 29, 2017

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