When is a headache something to worry about?

July 12, 2017 by Liz Morgan

Most people will experience a headache at some point in their life. At the least, headaches are an inconvenience. At the worst, they can indicate a serious health problem. Here are some common types of headaches and whether you should wait it out – or if you should seek medical attention.

Primary headaches are those that are not a symptom of an underlying disease or health problem. These include:
• Cluster headaches (occur in patterns or ‘clusters’)
• Migraines
• Tension headaches

Primary headaches can be caused by certain lifestyle choices, including drinking alcohol, lack of sleep, skipped meals or stress.

A secondary headache is a symptom of a disease that can irritate and activate nerves of the head. A few of these headaches include:
• Sinus headaches
• Thunderclap headaches (sudden, severe headaches associated with multiple causes)
• External compression headaches

The causes of secondary headaches vary from benign to severe. These conditions include concussions, encephalitis (brain inflammation), brain tumors, ear infections and high blood pressure.

So, when should seek medical attention? If your headache is coupled with confusion, fainting, high fever (over 102 degrees), stiff neck, nausea or vomiting, it could indicate a more serious condition. If your headaches are happening more than usual, worsen, don’t improve with over-the-counter medication, or keep you from your normal activities, you should seek medical attention to explore your options of alleviating the symptoms.

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