headaches to watch out for

most of us had a headache every now and then that goes away in a few hours or is cured by a nap or over the counter medicine:

  1. Tension headache
    Often result from stress or lack of sleep. They’re not usually disabling, typically fade overnight, and can be easily relieved with ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin.
  2. Migraine headache
    Migraines tend to hit one side of the head, and can last from several hours to several days. They’re usually marked by a sensitivity to sound and light. You can manage it with migraine medicine.
  3. Cluster headache
    This one is an excruciating attack that explodes behind one eye, reaches a crescendo after about an hour, and then vanishes – only to return in a day or so. This goes on for a few weeks, and then stops for months. Numerous drugs target clusters, including some of the migraine meds.

but the six to watch out for could be a sign of something serious – and potentially deadly:

  1. The Thunderclap Headache
    If head pain hits you like a bolt out of nowhere, intensifying in a few minutes into the worst headache you’ve ever had, call 911. The list of causes for this kind of headache isn’t long (aneurysm, stroke, meningitis) but almost everything on it can be very quickly fatal.
  2. The Exercise Headache
    If your headache comes on quickly and furiously with violent physical exertion, see a doctor right away because it could be a subarachnoid hemorrhage.
  3. The Headache that Spreads to Your Neck
    Benign headaches stay in your head so if they don’t, it can be meningitis or a hemorrhage. Call 911, especially if you have a fever, are just getting over a bacterial infection, have a rash, or can’t think clearly.
  4. The Headache that Won’t End
    A headache that comes and goes for days – with a low-grade fever, visual disturbances, and aching in one or both of your temples – often signals an inflammation of the arteries that can leave you blind if not treated. See your doctor right away.
  5. The Contagious Headache
    If you and another person in your house has the same headache, there may be a malfunction in your heating system and it’s spewing carbon monoxide. Get everyone out of the house and call the fire department. Your headache should clear up in a few hours.
  6. The Headache that Wakes You Up
    If your headache has been worsening for weeks or if it’s present every morning when you wake up, it is the classic pattern for a slowly expanding mass. It may not warrant a 911 call, but you should see your doctor and schedule an MRI right away.

read article by Bill Phillips and the Editors of Men’s Health: 6 Head Pains You Should Never Ignore


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