Your questions answered

Posted on 1 August 2013

Increase your medical knowledge with these frequently asked questions.

My jaw clicks when I open and close my mouth, and sometimes when I eat too. Should I be worried?
‘Many people have clicking jaw joints, but it only needs treatment if there is an interference with function or if the clicking is so loud that it can be heard while you are eating, causing embarrassment,’ says Dr Elliot Shevel, a maxillofacial surgeon and founder of The Headache Clinic. If you are able to open your jaw wide and chew without pain, it is not necessary to seek treatment.

When I have a headache and take aspirin, how does it work? I’d really like to know how the medication ‘knows’ where it’s supposed to go in my body.
When you feel pain, your brain is telling you something is wrong. For example, if you slam your finger in the door, the damaged tissue of the finger you’ve hurt releases a chemical called prostaglandin, which makes sure the nerve endings register pain by sending messages to your brain. When you take aspirin, the chemical compound stops your cells from making prostaglandin and blocks the pain. The aspirin does not fix what’s causing the pain but instead just relieves it by lowering the ‘volume’ of the pain signals being sent through your nerves to the brain.

I suffer from headaches. How can I tell what type it is and how to treat it?
If a headache affects your life and prevents you from going about your usual activities, it could be a migraine. About five million South Africans suffer from migraines, and women are three times more likely to get them than men, says Dr Shevel. A migraine can last between four and 72 hours. If a headache is throbbing, occurs on just one side of your head, and if it makes you feel nauseous, it may be a migraine. But the good news is that headaches can be treated; so speak to your doctor about options available to you.

Read more about tension headaches, migraines and cluster headaches – as well as the different treatment options, plus when a headache signals trouble.

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Published in Routine tests

In the interest of our patients, in accordance with SA law and our commitment to expertise, Mediclinic cannot subscribe to the practice of online diagnosis. Please consult a medical professional for specific medical advice. If you have any major concerns, please see your doctor for an assessment. If you have any cause for concern, your GP will be able to direct you to the appropriate specialists.