The topic of chronic headaches after bariatric surgery has come up pretty frequently, and we want to give you a frame of why people get headaches after bariatric surgery and some remedies you can use, and how we typically treat these.
One of the critical things about headaches is whether or not you have them before surgery. For patients who have had migraines and cluster headaches pre-surgery, those will tend to persist post-surgery, so whatever treatment you were using pre-surgery, you should continue that. We also recommend you schedule an appointment with your primary care physician to make sure your headaches are not related to anything serious.
Headaches After Bariatric Surgery
Some patients get headaches after bariatric surgery and the number one reason is dehydration. If you are not drinking enough and are in a dehydrated state, you tend to have those headaches. So the first remedy is to make sure that you are well-hydrated, and it’s important to look for signs of dehydration early on.
If you are dehydrated, we recommend constantly drinking water to maintain hydration. Your stomach is much smaller than it was before, so you cannot drink a whole lot of fluids in a short amount of time.
If your mouth gets that cotton feeling, you’re probably dehydrated already. If your urine has decreased below four times a day and gets darker, you are probably dehydrated.
So if those things are happening along with your headaches, the critical thing is to get rehydrated. We typically recommend doing this on a timer. Drink water first thing in the morning because you haven’t ingested anything for six to eight hours that you slept the night before. And then, every half hour, you want to be drinking a cup of water to stay hydrated. Most times, that’ll take care of a fair amount of the headaches.
If addressing your dehydration does not help the headaches, you can take medication. We typically recommend taking Tylenol since it’s a good choice for short term use. You can also use things like non-steroidal aspirin. However, we caution you not to take medication beyond three days because you will risk getting an ulcer.
And if you’re past about five days where you’re getting a headache, then we recommend you go in and visit your primary care physician so they can rule out some other causes of headaches, such as spontaneous intracranial hypotension. In one study on gastric bypass patients, they found that a small percentage of patients could develop this spontaneous intracranial hypotension due to a leak of the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) out of the spinal canal. The leak will cause headaches when standing up but relief from lying down due to the pressure of the spinal fluid.
We recognize that headaches after bariatric surgery can be painful, debilitating, and concerning; however, although they are often triggered by dehydration, if they persist you want to be sure to take the necessary action to ensure your health and safety. Make an appointment with a bariatric professional if you would like more information on the risks that come with bariatric surgery.