If you are into smoking and your head throbs a lot, it may be due to one of the ingredients- nicotine. Yes, you read that right! Excessive levels of nicotine can be a cause of your headaches that are just not ready to quit. It is actively found in cigarettes, cigars, and other tobacco products. Nicotine is a stimulant by nature that increases the activity of your central nervous system. It gives the brain a sense of “kick,” making them alert.

The Link Between Nicotine and Headaches

Nicotine has long been associated with headaches, as research reveals that people who take a puff are more likely to experience frequent headaches. It stimulates pain-sensitive nerves that cause the ache. Moreover, there are instances when the use of nicotine may lessen the effects of some pain medications, making it difficult for headaches to go away. Amongst the lot, cluster headaches are more closely associated with the use of nicotine or tobacco products.

However, there is another point to ponder. Just like excessive use of nicotine, its withdrawal can also result in headaches. Fortunately, they subside after a week or two of quitting.

How Does Nicotine Cause Headaches?

Here are some of the ways nicotine affects your brain:

  • Nicotine causes headaches by constricting blood vessels and reducing blood flow to the brain.
  • It may reduce the potency of some painkillers.
  • Your brain may develop excessive sensitivity to pain receptors due to continuous exposure to nicotine.
  • Going cold turkey (Nicotine withdrawal) is also a cause of headaches as the body adjusts to the absence of this chemical.

When To Talk To A Doctor?

If your tobacco use becomes too excessive, that makes it hard for you to carry on with your daily life. Get in touch with your doctor if:

  • The episodes happen frequently.
  • Those headaches significantly impact your daily routine.

It Is Time To Seek Immediate Care When

Immediate medical attention for nicotine-induced headaches is necessary when:

  1. It is Followed By a Head Injury: If your head throbs after an injury, get immediate medical attention to rule out a more serious condition such as a concussion or brain injury.
  2. Sudden and Severe Headache: If it comes on suddenly and is extremely bad, it could be a sign of a serious medical issue like hemorrhagic stroke.
  3. Other Symptoms: If your headache is accompanied by symptoms such as weakness or numbness on one side of the body, speaking issues, confusion, or loss of consciousness, it may be due to more serious underlying conditions that require immediate medical attention.

Closing Note

The best way to permanently get rid of nicotine-related headaches is to quit its use. This not only diminishes aches but also has other health benefits, like reducing the risk of cancer, heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.

If you have more questions, we urge you to contact our expert, Dr. Rajesh Maheshwari, MD, at San Ramon Urgent Care Clinic for help. Call (925) 361-5959 (San Ramon), (209) 825-5155 (Manteca), or (209) 983-9000 (Lathrop) for more information.

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