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When to Worry About a Headache

August 3, 2016

A headache usually is just a small nuisance that’s typically brought on by stress, sinus pressure or dehydration. In most cases, getting a little extra rest, drinking a little more water or taking an over-the-counter pain medication will have you feeling better in no time.

However, sometimes headaches are more frequent or more severe and may require a trip to the doctor’s office. Here are six signs that will tell you whether or not to worry about a headache.

1. If Your Headaches Are Happening Frequently

Frequent headaches could be a sign that something in your daily life is causing you to have a reaction. It could be as simple as reducing the number of pillows you sleep on or drinking less caffeine throughout the day. Or, if you suffer from migraines, you may find that getting extra rest and reducing bright lights can help your condition improve. However, if the problem persists, you may want to make an appointment with your doctor to discuss treatment options. Many people with persistent migraines take prescription medication or a daily migraine preventer.

2. If Your Headache Is Combined with Neck Stiffness

A severe headache paired with a stiff neck could be a sign of a brain infection or bleeding around the brain. Usually, these conditions also have other symptoms—like loss of consciousness, fever or vomiting. In these cases, you should call an ambulance or go to the emergency room right away.

3. If Your Headache Is Combined with Cognitive Problems

Becoming very confused or struggling to speak properly during a headache could also indicate a serious problem with your brain. If you notice your cognitive functions are impaired, call your doctor immediately or go to the hospital just to be on the safe side.

4. If You've Recently Suffered a Head Injury

Even if your head injury didn’t seem serious at the time, persistent headaches in the months following could be an indicator of a more severe problem. Track your symptoms and see your doctor for a follow-up appointment to make sure you aren’t experiencing any long-term side effects from your injury.

5. If Your Headache Is Combined with Forehead and Scalp Pain

People over the age of 50 are at risk for temporal arteritis, which is inflammation of the arteries in your temples and behind your eyes. Your headache will be centralized behind your forehead and your forehead and scalp will feel tender to the touch. If not treated properly, temporal arteritis can lead to sudden blindness, so seek medical attention as soon as possible.

6. If Your Headache Seems Unusual to You

No one knows your body better than you do, so trust your gut if you are concerned a headache may be a sign of a more serious problem. Making an appointment with your doctor to discuss how you’re been feeling can never hurt, so don’t be afraid to take a headache seriously if it seems unusual or unlike something you have experienced before.

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