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UK National News

19/09/2012

'Completely Preventable' Headaches Caused By Painkiller Overuse

As many as one million people in the UK suffer with severe headaches caused by taking too many painkillers, doctors have said.

Saying that these headaches are completely preventable” the warning came as part of the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence's (NICE) first guidelines for treating headaches.

There is currently no definitive UK data on the incidence of the condition, but studies in other countries suggest 1-2% of people are affected, while the World Health Organization says figures closer to 5% have been reported.

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While painkillers would be many people's instant response, they could be making sufferers feel even worse as ‘medication overuse headaches’ feel the same as other common headaches or migraines.

Prof Martin Underwood, from Warwick Medical School, who led the NICE panel, said: "This can end up getting into a vicious cycle where your headache gets worse, so you take more painkillers, so your headache gets worse and this just becomes worse and worse and worse.

"It is such an easy thing to prevent."

The new guidelines for doctors in England and Wales advise telling sufferers to immediately stop taking all pain relief. However, this will lead to about a month of agony as patients contend with regular headaches without pain relief, until symptoms eventually improve.

The panel said other options for controlling any underlying headaches, such as preventative treatments, could be considered.

(H)

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"As many as one million people in the UK suffer with severe headaches caused by taking too many painkillers, doctors have said."