Headaches happen to everybody, and while they rarely are a symptom of a chronic medical condition it is possible that your headache could indicate a serious illness. It’s important to know your personal headache symptoms so you can properly identify any changes that may occur that could require medical attention.
First, let’s break down the different kinds of headaches. The location of the headache and type of pain that it is causing can tell a lot about the cause. See the infographic below for some of the most common kinds of headaches.
The location can help identify the kind of headache you’re experiencing so it can be properly treated. A sinus headache feels like a strong weight is being pressed upon your T-zone. This can cause discomfort and is usually a sign of infection or that you’re coming down with a cold. A sinus headache can also be triggered by allergies that cause the sinuses to swell and create the aforementioned pressure.
Cluster headaches can be caused by many things like head injuries, hunger, dehydration, lack of sleep, and more. They commonly feel like a sharp pain located behind or around the eye and can be resolved by taking a pain reliever.
Tension headaches typically feel as though someone has a tight band wrapped around their head, and can also be caused by many variables like changes in diet, eye strain, dehydration, hunger, lack of sleep, stress, or caffeine to name a few. These headaches can also be resolved by an over-the-counter pain reliever.
Migraines can be caused by a multitude of things and unfortunately are much harder to relieve. Migraines can result from a lack of sleep, dehydration, hunger, stress, head injuries, or just being prone to getting them. Females and those who menstruate often are affected by migraines due to the hormonal changes occurring around that time. Those that have a migraine commonly have sensitivities to light or sound, have an inability to focus, and have sight impairments. The pressure feels most similar to someone laying a heavy weight upon one half of the head and can be very debilitating. Migraines can last for hours if left untreated. I suggest taking a pain reliever and excusing yourself for the remainder of the day to rest. Proper treatment includes laying down in a darkened, quiet room to rest. If your migraine gets worse or persist for over 6 hours, consult your doctor for additional advice. If you are prone to frequent migraines, ask your doctor if a maintenance medicine is available to help your condition.
It is uncommon, but not impossible, that your headache could be the sign of a more serious medical condition, such as a tumor or aneurysm (bleeding in the brain) that could require immediate medical attention. If you or a family member are experiencing any of the below symptoms, please seek immediate medical attention.
Symptoms Requiring Immediate Care:
- A sudden, new headache
- A headache associated with any neurological symptoms such as
- Loss of Balance
- Numbness or a tingling sensation
- Speech difficulties
- Mental confusion
- Personality changes
- Vision changes (blurry or cloudy vision, double vision, blind spots)
- Headache with a fever, shortness of breath, stiff neck or rash
- Headache with pain that wakes you
- Headaches with severe nausea or vomiting
- Headaches after a severe injury or trauma
- Getting a new type of headache after the age of 35
These symptoms can be indicative of a larger medical issue such as a tumor, aneurysm, signs of a stroke, or cancer and should not be ignored. Please seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing any of the above symptoms.
Other signs of a more serious condition do not require immediate medical attention, but you should consult a specialist if you or a family member are affected by them. They are as follows:
Symptoms that Require an Appointment with a Specialist:
- 3 or more headaches a week
- Headaches that progressively get worse or do not go away
- Need for pain relievers every day or almost every day to manage your headaches
- Headaches triggered by physical exertion, coughing, or bending
- A history of headaches, but a recent change in your symptoms
These symptoms can be indicative of a larger medical issue, but do not require immediate medical attention. However, they should be seen as a warning sign and those that are affected should schedule an appointment with a specialist for a proper diagnosis.
This article is not to be used as medical advice, and should not be taken as such.