A headache can strike without warning – some much more serious than others. And there are many types of headaches: migraines, tension, sinus headaches, along with various causes: panic attack, head trauma, and blood clot just for starters. Therefore, sometimes it’s obvious you need to seek medical help immediately, while other times, not so much. Keep reading to learn when to seek medical care for a headache.
Most of us experience an occasional headache and we either rub our temples and meditate, relax, and/or grab an over-the-counter pain reliever. In fact, you might be surprised to learn the number and types of headaches that can plague us. According to published reports, there are 150 types of headaches, and many of them can be very serious.
There Are Two Categories of Headaches. Know the Difference.
Headaches can be complicated and there are so many different causes. But they’re broken down into two categories: primary, not caused by another medical condition – and secondary, which involves an underlying cause. The most common types of primary headaches are:
- Tension headache (the most common type of headache; dull, aching head pain)
- Migraine (throbbing pain on one side of the head; usually comes with nausea, vomiting)
- Cluster headache (they strike without warning in clusters with intense pain)
Primary headaches are brought on by a number of elements, most of which we probably don’t even make the connection: dehydration, hormones, your diet/food sensitivities/caffeine withdrawal, sleeping patterns, physical activity, screen brightness (computer monitor/TV screen), medication, stress, noise, fatigue, weather changes – the list can go on and on.
Severe Secondary Headaches Are a Force to Be Reckoned With
The presence of various medical conditions can cause secondary headaches, which can be very serious, even life-threatening. The cause is often rooted in your medical history. Seek urgent care, immediately. A quick diagnosis is crucial. Some possible causes of secondary headaches include:
- Severe hypertension, high blood pressure
- Head Trauma, concussion, Intracranial hematoma
- Brain tumor, brain aneurysm, a blood clot (venous thrombosis) within the brain
- Upper respiratory infections, Influenza, flu-like fevers, sinuses (sinusitis)
- Trigeminal neuralgia
- Meningitis, sinusitis
- Panic attack, panic disorder
- Dental infections
- Excessive alcohol
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
Are You Experiencing the Worst Headache of Your Life? Get Medical Help
You must listen to your body. One of the warning signs you need to get medical help is, if all of a sudden, you’re experiencing a new type of headache or the worst headache of your life. A crippling headache. In fact, it’s a pain you should not ignore. And that’s just one of the signs of a secondary headache, a very serious, severe headache. They come on quickly. Here are more warning signs or red flags:
- Recurring headaches in children
- Sudden onset of pain, a horrific headache that wakes you from your sleep
- Headaches that start early in the morning
- Headache that gets much worse, much more severe or continues
- Headache that follows a head injury
- Pain that gets worse when you cough or sneeze or other types of movements
- Vomiting without nausea
- Trouble speaking, personality & mental changes
Again, if you experience any of the above, get medical help, immediately. Your life may depend on it.
Our Doors Are Always Open
We hope this guide helps you learn more about headaches and when to seek medical care for a headache. Our doors are always open here at the affordable walk-in clinics that make up the UrgentMED network. We provide a wide variety of medical services: diagnostic testing, surgical and non-surgical procedures, and specialized care. With 15 locations, we’re the largest comprehensive urgent care network in Southern California. We’re here for you when you need us.