Most headaches are nothing to be concerned about. They are common with all types of illness like the cold, flu and allergies. They can also be caused by stress or lack of sleep. But sometimes headaches indicate something more serious and require medical attention. Find out how to tell the difference between a "regular" headache and one that needs to be evaluated further.
You should contact your doctor if you have a headache and any of the following symptoms:
- A headache that is severe and is accompanied by stiff neck, vomiting and sensitivity to light. This is a medical emergency – go to the Emergency Room immediately.
- If you have had a head injury or been knocked out recently. This is a medical emergency – go to the Emergency Room immediately.
- If you have numbness or tingling in the arms or legs. This could be a medical emergency – go to the Emergency Room immediately.
- If you have a headache that is severe and comes on suddenly.
- A fever and headache that is not relieved with medication.
- Pain in the ear or eye
- Pressure around the eyes and thick nasal discharge that does not improve with treatment after 48 hours.
- Pain on only one side of the head that is intense and throbbing. May be preceded by seeing flashing lights or spots.
Always contact your doctor if you are concerned about your headache.
"Headache." American Academy of Family Physicians 1996. 24 Oct 2006.
"Headache." National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke 12 Dec 08. Medline Plus. National Institutes of Health. 30 Dec 08.