There is nothing like a headache to spoil an otherwise fine day. Though headache is one of the most common disorders, doctors say it is also one of the most ignored health problems.

The World Health Organisation, in its Atlas of Headache Disorders and Resources in the World 2011, noted that a minority of people with headache disorders are professionally diagnosed and, globally, about 50 per cent of people are estimated to be primarily self-treating.

Migraine is the most common type of headache. There are other types of headaches caused by sinusitis, refractive errors, ear infection and facial pain.

Doctors say understanding the pattern of headaches is necessary for better management. Karthic Natarajan, pain consultant, Back and Pain Centre, Apollo Hospitals, says migraine is most common in women, especially those aged between 20 and 45. “It can be triggered and aggravated by various factors: lack of adequate sleep, skipping a meal, drinking too much of coffee or tea, eating chocolate, cheese, aerated drinks.”

K. Sridhar, director of neurosciences, Global Health City, says, “Identify what sets off the headache. Understanding the headache will help in dealing with it,” he says. Simple lifestyle changes can control headaches by at least 50 per cent.

“People take over-the-counter drugs. If this continues, they will reach a point when they will not respond to any drug,” says C. Mutharasu, former professor of neurology, Rajiv Gandhi Government General Hospital.

For persons like B. Parvathi, headache is something she encounters every week. “Doctors say it is an ordinary headache and give medications. When I have a headache, I cannot eat and feel nauseous.”

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When someone falls ill, it sometimes becomes a headache to reach out to healthcare. Particularly, in the case of the elderly, who live alone and have no assistance to reach a health centre or a doctor.

Chennai found a solution to this, way back in 2008, and called it the ‘Geriatric Housecall Programme’. It was launched by V.S. Natarajan, widely touted as the father of geriatrics in this part of the country, and the Senior Citizens Bureau. “When a senior citizen falls ill, they may be unable to reach a hospital, or a doctor, even if they have help. Hence, this programme, where doctors go home to provide medicare and treat them,” he says.

Geriatricians sign up with the Housecall programme and promise to visit the elderly at home, for medical and rehabilitation assistance. They charge only a nominal consultation fee, and wherever they are available, are of immense assistance, patients vouch. “Last week when I fell ill, a doctor came home to administer drips,” Dr. Natarajan says. There are about 30 such doctors on call in the city, and areas such as Anna Nagar, Mylapore, Adyar, and Adambakkam are well served, he says.

Portea Medical is now entering the same space in Chennai, and last week, offered services for elderly citizens, focusing on providing support at home, with clinicians trained to address physical and/or mental impairment.

Portea CEO Meena Ganesh says, “Chennai had more than 3.5 lakh persons aged 60 or above, (1.73 lakh males; 1.77 lakh females) as per the 2011 census data. We recognise that healthcare is one of the most important priorities for this group, and we are opening delivery centres in the city to provide convenient quality care for elderly within their homes.”

Their doctors and nurses are required to pass rigorous hiring standards, she says. Additionally, they offer chronic and post-operative care across all age groups.

(Reporting by Serena Josephine M. and Ramya Kannan)

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