Severe Headaches and Migraines

Severe Headaches and Migraines

Severe Headaches and Migraines

Headaches are a common reason people visit health care practitioners. While most people suffer from a headache occasionally, some headaches, such as severe migraines, become more serious and require medical treatment. In some cases, severe headaches have the potential to be a symptom of a life-threatening emergency. If you ever experience what you feel is the “worst headache of your life,” a medical professional should evaluate you immediately.

Potential Causes of Severe Headaches

women suffering from headacheMany different types of headaches exist, and there are many different headache causes as well. A few of the potential causes of a severe headache include:

  • Meningitis
  • Head injury, without or with bleeding inside the skull
  • Swelling or inflammation of blood vessels within the head
  • Tumors
  • Migraines
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage or other bleeding inside the skull
  • Brain aneurysm
  • Exposure to various toxic substances, including carbon monoxide

Symptoms of Severe Headaches

The symptoms often vary, depending on the root cause of the headache. However, some of the symptoms that may come with severe headaches may include (note: not all types of headaches produce all of these symptoms):

  • Sharp, aching, or throbbing pain in the head and/or neck
  • Headache that causes symptoms in one or both sides of your head
  • Fast onset of head pain
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Fever
  • Changes in vision, such as blurry vision, blind spots, or flashing lights
  • Lightheadedness, vertigo, or dizziness

When Should You Seek Medical Care?

It’s important to contact a medical professional or an emergency room if:

  • You have a headache and a fever. If you have a stiff neck along with the fever and headache, head to the emergency room immediately to be evaluated.
  • You have the worst headache of your life, particularly if you rarely deal with headaches. The worst headache of your life should be treated as an emergency.
  • You experience any headache that is out of the ordinary.
  • Multiple people in the family have a severe headache at the same time, particularly during the winter when carbon monoxide exposure could be possible.

Visit an emergency room immediately if:

  • You have a headache with weakness or numbness in the arms or legs or loss of vision
  • You have a severe headache that starts suddenly and is the worst headache of your life
  • You have a migraine that fails to improve with your usual home care
  • You have a headache after sustaining a head injury
  • You have a headache that comes with unusual associated symptoms

Diagnosing Severe Headaches

Finding the root cause of a severe headache is important. A medical professional will begin the process of diagnosing your headache by asking you questions about the headache and any medical problems you may have. Depending on your symptoms, a physician may order a CT scan of your head or various lab tests may be ordered.

While most headaches do not require emergency medical care, severe headaches have the potential to be serious. If you have the worst headache of your life or a severe headache along with unusual accompanying symptoms, visit Pinnacle ER immediately for assessment and treatment.


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