Headache is one of the most common symptoms that bring a person to the doctor, and it is evident from the fact that 4 percent of all emergency department visits is associated with a headache. According to the National Headache Foundation, chronic recurring headaches occur in over 45 million Americans.

As common as headaches are, most of them are benign with no cause for concern and subside with simple over-the-counter medications. However, some headaches can signal an underlying sinister health condition, and might be too late a signal. Such headaches are normally accompanied by warning signs that could hint you or the doctor to the cause of your headache, and probably could save your life.

Types of Headaches

There are approximately 150 different established headache categories; however, the most common types are tension headaches, migraines, mixed headache syndromes, cluster headaches and sinus headaches.

Headaches can easily be divided into primary and secondary headaches – primary headaches being those  not caused by other medical conditions and secondary headaches being those which are associated or result from another medical condition such as fever, infection, high blood pressure, head injury, stroke, stress, tumour or a nerve disorder.

Many of us have a headache every now and then. But, do you know when your headache is more than just a headache?

Secondary headaches are the ones that are associated with another medical condition, and are also most commonly associated with a more serious outcome as compared to primary headaches. They may also be benign such as is seen in medication overuse, but can be an ominous sign of a brain tumour or an intracranial bleeding.

Ominous Signs Associated with a Headache

So, without much ado, here are the 10 Warning Signs that Your Headache needs a Doctor urgently:

  1. You have the first ever or the worst ever headache of your life
  2. Your headache comes on suddenly without warning and is severe
  3. Your headaches are coming more frequently than before
  4. Your recurrent headaches have now changed in character
  5. You have a headache later in life (over 50 years) or in someone younger than 5 years of age
  6. Your headache is accompanied by weakness, loss of vision or changes in mental functioning
  7. You have a fever and a headache that won’t go or is associated with muscle pain and weight loss
  8. You have a headache when you exert, cough, strain or during sexual activity
  9. Your headache leads to a seizure or fit or a fainting episode
  10. You have a medical condition like pregnancy, high blood pressure, HIV or cancer

Final Words of Advice

If you are suffering from a headache that fits into any of the 10 warning signs, get yourself evaluated by a doctor. If you ignore these warning signs, it might be too late, resulting in long-term damage.

As discussed, most headaches are innocuous and can be easily managed; however, heeding the warning signs could assist in reaching at an early diagnosis and can even save you by helping you respond timely and appropriately.

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  1. Excellent article Dr Kindo.
    I may add – any headache that keeps waking you up in the morning will need evaluation for a possible space occupying lesion. And of course if you ever faint or have a black out with a history of recurring headaches , that’s dangerous too.

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