When to Worry About a Headache

Headaches are tricky things. Hard to describe, difficult to quantify, and especially bothersome, they are a challenge for health care providers. The vast majority of headaches are benign. I am not implying they are not very painful, just that they won’t kill you. It is estimated 1 in 20 adults has a headache every day, and the commonality may prevent headache sufferers from seeking medical attention. Unfortunately, there are some causes of headaches that can kill you, or at least become very serious.

When you should worry:

  • It is the worst headache of your life.
  • It wakes you from sleep.
  • It comes on severely and suddenly.
  • It is accompanied by confusion, sharp facial pain, weakness or numbness in the face or in other parts of the body.
  • In addition to a recurring headache, you have systemic symptoms, such as weight loss and/or loss of appetite.
  • The headache is accompanied by fever, a stiff neck and a rash.
  • You are older than 50 and your headaches are new or different
  • Any headache that is getting worse, is different than previous headaches or is lasting for a longer period of time.

Again, most likely you are suffering from a very common type of headache, like a tension headache or a migraine. In these cases, while you don’t have to run to the ER, you can still discuss the pain with your doctor and work on getting some relief. The most important thing with any headache is to pay attention to triggers and try to avoid them. Common ones are lack of sleep, stress, a poor diet, dehydration, and for me, recently and quite sadly, wine. So many of my peers have given up the liquid grape because it affects us differently than it did before. More on this tomorrow.

 


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Author: Karen Latimer

Karen is a Family Physician, Wellness Coach, and founder of Tips From Town. She is passionate about sharing her medical expertise, her coaching techniques and her parenting experience to encourage happier and healthier lives.

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