Last updated on November 28th, 2022 at 12:05 pm
We all have had it – a mild-to-severe debilitating pain or discomfort in our head that interrupts and disrupts our day-to-day activities.
Headaches, as we all know them, are definitely annoying and painful conditions. They affect our well-being and take a toll on our professional and personal life.
While headaches may be frequent and common, the good news is that most of them are not threatening to your health. Most, if not all, can easily be relieved by an over-the-counter (OTC) pain reliever, some coffee, comforting food, and plenty of rest.
But if you have been experiencing a severe headache that doesn’t go away with OTC medicine, it may be a cause of concern. Such headaches could be a symptom of an underlying medical condition or health complication. They could be serious and life-threatening and demand prompt medical attention.
Fortunately, such conditions are rare but knowing them is equally important. So read on to know when headaches can be a cause of actual concern.
When to Worry About a Headache?
Most headaches are often treated as a usual commotion in everyday living, you must worry if your headache is frequent and persistent.
So, if you are having a bad headache that is not settling even after ample rest and counter medications, it might be indicating a serious health problem. It requires an expert evaluation for effective treatment.
Most Common Type of Headaches That Could Be A Reason for Concern
Different types of headaches that require prompt medical attention include:
- Recurring headaches: Chronic pain in the head that occurs for 15 or more days in a month could be a cause of concern. There could a number of possible underlying causes that only a doctor can determine.
- Persistent headaches: Long-lasting headaches that run from a few days to more than a week and lead to missed days at school/ work. While persistent headaches don’t automatically indicate an underlying condition, they may be an indicator of a headache disorder that needs medical attention.
- Intense pain: An excruciating pain – that you’ve never experienced in your life before – accompanied by blurred vision, loss of consciousness, and seizures. Such intense headaches can occur due to bleeding in the brain (aneurysm), which, if not treated on time, can lead to a coma or death of a person.
- Changes in personality/ mental ability: Seek immediate medical help if your headaches are causing confusion, loss of coordination, difficulty in walking, slurring of speech, or weakness. These could be the warning signs of a stroke, which if left untreated can cause irreversible damage to the brain.
- Headaches with nausea and vomiting: These symptoms appear if you are suffering from migraine. Migraine pain cannot be treated with counter pain relievers, only a certified practitioner can help you ease your pain through prescribed drugs and lifestyle changes.
- Headaches after injuries: Headaches that begin after a head injury/ accident often indicate a potential brain injury. They could be a cause of concern. A rigorous medical evaluation can help you ascertain the exact cause and severity of the condition.
- Headache with fever and stiff neck: If you are experiencing headaches, accompanied by fever and stiff neck, you could be suffering from meningitis. It demands immediate medical attention as untreated bacterial meningitis can lead to long-term disability or death
How do I know if my headache is serious?
The following are some red flag symptoms that indicate that your headache is serious:
- a severe headache that becomes unbearable within minutes
- a persistent headache that does not go away
- a headache that changes its intensity or position
- a headache that occurs after coughs, sneezes, or strain
- a headache that develops after 50 years of age
- a headache that always occurs at the same position
- a headache that starts after an accident
- a headache that is triggered by bright light, loud noises, and strong smell
- a headache that’s accompanied by fever, chills, sweats, and unexpected weight loss
- a headache that’s leading to confusion, convulsions, changes in behavior, or personality
- a headache that’s accompanied by nausea and vomiting
- a headache that’s associated with changes in vision or numbness/ weakness of one side of the body
Constant Headaches Every Day
While we all have headaches from time to time, some people suffer from headaches more often than others. Known as chronic daily headaches, they vary in intensity but usually occur for 15 days or more in a month.
Some most common types of headaches include:
- Chronic migraine headaches
- Chronic tension-type headache
- Cluster headaches
- New daily persistent headache
- Hypnic headaches
- Sinus headaches
- Exertional headaches
- Medication overuse headaches
- Hemicrania continua
- Caffeine-related headaches
What Could Be the Cause of Daily Headaches?
Chronic daily headaches occur due to various reasons, including:
- Inflammation of sinuses
- Strenuous physical activity
- Sleep disruption
- Hormonal changes
- Brain tumor
- Bright light
- Loud noise
- Sinus infection
- Certain foods and medications
- Incorrect posture
- Skipped meals
- Eye strain
- and a lot more
Most of these frequent headaches can be managed through suitable pain medicines and lifestyle changes. You/ your family member must consult a headache specialist for an appropriate treatment plan.
Sudden Severe Headache
Sudden intense headaches are called thunderclap headaches. While they might not always be serious, sometimes they are a sign of a potentially life-threatening condition.
Sudden severe headaches might indicate an aneurysm or bleeding in the brain, which could lead to a coma or death of a patient. These headaches are often accompanied by nausea and vomiting.
The pain grabs you suddenly and peaks within a minute. The excruciating pain can last for up to five minutes and then subsides. It’s often accompanied by other symptoms, including:
- Changes in vision
What causes sudden severe headaches?
Thunderclap headaches are often caused due to:
- Bleeding from an artery (subarachnoid hemorrhage)
- A burst of an artery (aneurysm)
- Blocked veins in your head
- Extremely high blood pressure
- Ruptured or inflamed blood vessel
- Brain infection
- Leakage of spinal fluid
- Blockage in blood vessels
Headache on Right Side of Head and Eye
There are more than 300 types of headaches. But only migraine headaches cause pulsating pain or throbbing sensation on the right side of your head and eye.
The pain usually begins around your right eye and spreads to the back of your head. Other migraine symptoms include nausea, vomiting, congestion, blurred vision, and a runny nose.
Migraine pain is treated using prescription medicines and by recognizing and avoiding triggers.
What kind of headache is behind one eye?
If you are feeling pain behind one of your eyes, chances are that you might be suffering any one of the following headaches:
Migraine: Migraine affects the right eye and right side of the head. It is usually triggered by bright light, loud noise, stress, anxiety, weather, hormonal changes, and foods and drinks. However, migraine triggers vary from person to person.
Cluster headaches: These are severe, one-sided headaches that cause pain on one side of your head and eye as well as neck and shoulders. Considered primary headaches, rather than secondary headaches, they come in groups and show up at the same time of the day for weeks or months together.
Each headache lasts for 30 to 45 minutes and is often accompanied by eye pain, watery eyes, drooping eyelids, stuffy nose, excessive sweating, and facial changes.
Chronic Tension Headaches: Usually exhibited by dull, aching pain that affects usually affects both sides of your head. However, some people experience it only on one side of their head and eye. Symptoms usually last from a few minutes to a few hours and can be treated with OCT pain relievers.
FAQ relating to are headaches bad for you
Headaches can be bad and can leave you confused. Here are the answers to some of the most commonly asked questions regarding headaches.
Read them to know if your headache is a cause of concern.
Are headaches bad for your brain?
While most headaches, any sides of the head, are nothing more than a temporary speed bump, migraines can have a debilitating effect on your brain. Chronic migraine can change how your brain looks and acts over time.
However, with proper treatment, migraine sufferers can treat and even reverse the changes that were caused in their brains by persistent migraine attacks.
When should you worry about a headache?
Your headaches could be a cause of concern if they:
- Are sudden and severe
- Lasts more than a week
- Are causing problems with speaking, eating, balancing or vision
- Are accompanied by nausea and vomiting
- Are occurring after a brain injury or accident
- Not settling with OTC headache pain relievers
What a headache does to your body?
Headaches originate in the brain, but they typically affect every part of the body. Severe persistent headaches often lead to
- Loss of balance
- Speech difficulties
- Muscular weakness
- Vision changes (blurry vision, double vision, and blind spots)
- Mental confusion
- Loss of appetite and thirst
- Neck stiffness
- Pain in the ears or eyes
What type of headaches are serious?
Headaches that come suddenly, are accompanied by severe intense pain, and persist for a long time are serious. You must also be wary of headaches that are associated with trauma, injury, fever, neck stiffness, vomiting, or seizures.