Headache Warning Signs
Headaches are extremely common. Fortunately, they usually
go away without causing further problems. Even many chronic headaches, such as
migraines and cluster headaches, are not considered signs of more severe,
underlying problems. They may need to be treated to improve your life, but they
won’t put your life at risk.
That said, certain types of headaches should be
considered potential warning signs of more serious health problems.
you experience any of the following symptoms, make immediate arrangements to see
a doctor, or go to the emergency room.
A thunderclap headache is an extremely
severe headache that comes on rapidly. It develops in 60 seconds or less asand
causes intense pain. Thunderclap headaches can be caused by bleeding in the
brain after an:
- other injury
Headache After a Head Injury
Any head trauma that causes a headache requires prompt
medical attention. A headache after any kind of impact to the head can indicate
Concussion is a particular risk if the headache
continues to worsen after the injury. Even a minor fall or bump to the head can
result in potentially life-threatening bleeding in the brain.
Headache with a Fever or Stiff Neck
A headache combined with a fever and/or a stiff neck may
indicate encephalitis or meningitis.
Encephalitis is an infection of the brain, while meningitis
is an infection of the membrane that surrounds the brain. Both conditions can
Headache that Wakes You Up
Being woken by head pain is a common symptom of cluster
headaches. These are also known as “alarm clock headaches.”
Cluster headaches are not life threatening. However,
they can be debilitating.
Headache Accompanied by Nausea, Vomiting, or Sensitivity to Light and Sound
These are common symptoms of migraine headaches.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), migraines are one of the
top 20 causes of disability worldwide. They are not life threatening, but they
can severely impact your well-being.
New or Unusual Headaches
Besides the specific headache
symptoms described above, any new or unusual headaches should be discussed with
your doctor. Pay particular attention to headaches that:
- first develop after age 50
- suddenly change in frequency, location, or
- get consistently worse over time
- are accompanied by changes in personality
- cause weakness
- affect your vision or speech
Sudden weakness accompanied by
speech and vision changes may be a sign that you are having a stroke. Get help
as quickly as possible.