When To Worry About A Headache?

when to worry about headache

Almost everyone has had a headache, and a great majority have suffered from a throbbing and pulsating pain in the head more than one time. A minor headache can usually be treated by rehydrating, taking a short rest, eating some food, having coffee, or taking certain over-the-counter painkillers.

Related: Why do I wake up with a Headache?

However, if your headache symptoms do not subside after such measures, you have had a continuous headache for three days, or if a sudden severe headache has started bothering you, you may need serious medical attention. Such instances may hint at a stroke, blood clot, or tumor; thus, you must be aware of when a headache needs urgent medical attention. So how long is too long for a headache? This article delves into when you should worry about a headache and how to determine when one crosses the threshold of acute pain. 

What Causes Headaches? 

Medical professionals and researchers have yet to understand the strange phenomenon of headaches fully. However, they do know that the skull and brain tissues are not the culprits in the scenario as they lack the nerves to register pain. The blood vessels in the neck and head have pain receptors, and so do certain tissues surrounding the brain and major nerves with their origin in the brain. The teeth, sinuses, scalp, joints, and muscles of the neck can also cause a headache. 

Related: Afternoon headaches: Causes and treatment

When Should You Worry About a Headache? 

There are more than 300 classified types of headaches, many of which are treatable at home. Your doctor can also prescribe a pain killer to control certain others. But some headaches are much more severe and require immediate medical attention. Here are some of the primary warning signs you should keep in mind to determine when to worry about a headache:

  • Headaches first develop after 50 years of age 
  • A sudden and excruciating headache 
  • Steadily worsening headaches 
  • Headaches that worsen with movement or coughing 
  • Prominent changes in mental function and personality 
  • A significant shift in the pattern of your headaches 
  • Headaches that result after a significant blow to the head 
  • Headaches accompanied by symptoms such as a stiff neck, fever, confusion, deteriorating alertness or memory, or some neurological symptoms like slurred speech, numbness, visual disturbances, weakness, or seizures
  • Headaches accompanied by redness and pain in one or both eyes 
  • Headaches accompanied by tenderness and pain near the temples 
  • Headaches that impede normal daily functioning 
  • Headaches in patients with impaired immune systems and cancer 
  • Headaches that wake you up or start abruptly 

Headache Symptoms 

Contrary to popular belief, a headache does not only entail a painful sensation in the head. It can include pain in the head, neck area, or face. Although most headaches are not serious, some might be a result of underlying health conditions or sickness. Let us look at some headache symptoms that you should look out for: 

  • Thunderclap headache (abrupt, sudden, and very intense pain)
  • A fever higher than 102 to 104 degrees Fahrenheit 
  • Fainting 
  • Vomiting and nausea 
  • Fever and a stiff neck 
  • Droopiness on one side of the face 
  • Weakness on one side of the body 
  • Constant auras and face tingling 
  • Sharp, sudden, and severe headache pain for the first time 
  • Pain that worsens with a change in position 
  • Difficulty understanding speech 
  • Confusion 
  • Garbled or slurred speech 
  • Facing difficulty in walking 
  • Facing difficulty in hearing 
  • Loss of balance or dizziness 
  • Unexplained weight loss 
  • Injury or bump on your head 
  • Persistent pain in one part of the head 
  • Sharp pain that wakes you up when sleeping 
  • Pain that begins after sneezing, coughing, or another type of exertion 
  • Seizures 
  • An animal bite anywhere on your body 
  • Swelling on the head or face 

Causes of Serious Headaches

A variety of factors cause normal headaches. These may include the following: 

  • Muscle tension 
  • Dehydration 
  • Stress 
  • Nerve pain 
  • Fever 
  • Lack of sleep 
  • Alcohol consumption 
  • Eating particular foods 
  • Caffeine withdrawal 
  • Hormonal changes 
  • Side effects of particular medications 
  • Toothache 
  • Pregnancy 

Headache Testing

Modern healthcare relies upon diagnostic tests to determine the presence of anomalies and other diseases. Headaches are no different: they are diagnosed through traditional physical and mental tests. Although MRIs, CT scans, and EEGs (brain wave tests) typically look normal in tension-type migraines, headaches, and cluster headaches. They can still be vital in patients that exhibit the above-mentioned warning symptoms. 

Related: What is a Low CSF Pressure Headache?

Occasional headaches are generally nothing more than a temporary bump in the road of life and can be dealt with non-prescription medications or lifestyle changes. Biofeedback, acupuncture, relaxation techniques, and yoga can also help reduce the symptoms of headaches. If you have had a continuous headache for three days or are experiencing a sudden severe one, it is time to consult a medical professional. Neurological and psychological specialists at NeuroX can help! Head over to NeuroX right now and book an online appointment within minutes. 

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