A symptom you should never ignore: Headache

Are you having headaches?

When your body speaks, you should listen. Most people aren't very good at it, though, and it's tempting to ignore a problem that could signal something bad. Even if you do pay attention to your symptoms, it's not easy to know what they mean.

That's why diagnosis is a job for a doctor. But you can use the information here to help  decide how urgently you need to see one.

A symptom you should never ignore: Headache


Dull pain in your head, neck or shoulders that comes on gradually may feel like a vise around your forehead, temples or back of your head and neck. A tension headache can be triggered by stress, fatigue, anger or depression. It can also have no known trigger.

Take aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen.

Pain after physical exertion such as running, sexual intercourse, coughing or bowel movements can lead to an exertion headache, related to cluster headaches, migraines or, rarely, to aneurysms, tumours or malformed blood vessels.

Pain usually goes away in less than an hour. It can be treated with aspirin or medications for migraines or cluster headaches. If headaches persist, see your doctor.

Throbbing pain that comes on several days after consuming a large amount of caffeine.

To treat headaches that result from caffeine withdrawal, reduce or eliminate your caffeine intake.

Throbbing pain, usually on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light and sound are indicative of a migraine. Occasionally accompanied by flashing lights, blind spots or tingling in the arm or face prior to head pain migraines; occur more commonly in women and can be triggered by menstruation, ovulation or menopause.

Migraines typically last from four hours to three days. To treat one of these, take an over-the-counter painkiller or a prescription migraine medication if you have one and lie down in a dark room. If you have more than two migraines a month, see your doctor, who may recommend preventive medication.

Sudden, sharp, severe pain on one side of the head, sometimes around the eye may be accompanied by excessive sweating, tearing and nasal congestionCluster headache. 90 percent of sufferers of this type of headaches are men. Headaches may last anywhere from a few minutes to several hours but are likely to recur later that day.

See your doctor, who may prescribe medication to treat them. There are also preventive medicines that help ward off attacks. Avoid alcohol.

Unexplained pain that becomes progressively worse may be accompanied by blurred vision, confusion or loss of consciousness have been but are not necessarily an indication of the following: cancer, infection, high blood pressure, a disease or disorder of the brain,  disorders of the eyes, ears or nose,  blood clots, or aneurysms. See your doctor, who may order diagnostic tests or refer you to a specialist.

Sudden severe pain that is accompanied by numbness on one side of the body, dizziness, blurred vision, headache or confusion could indicate a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). If you suspect this go to the hospital immediately. Prompt treatment can save your life, lessen damage to your brain and reduce your risk of permanent disability.

The material on this website is provided for entertainment, informational and educational purposes only and should never act as a substitute to the advice of an applicable professional. Use of this website is subject to our terms of use and privacy policy.
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