When Should We Start Worrying About Headaches?

· November 10, 2016
When headaches become frequent and stop us from performing our daily duties, we should consult a doctor to perform specific tests to rule out serious problems.

A headache is something normal in our lives. No doubt that it is a well-known and bothersome enemy that, for the most part, goes away on its own without any larger complications.

However, there are those that, opposed to feeling relief after taking a pain reliever or relaxing with a good rest, find this discomfort to be debilitating.

This is a common realty. We are definitely talking about migraines, those chronic headaches that greatly affect our quality of life.

So…when do we start to worry about headaches? Could a headache be the symptom of something more dangerous? it is something we need to take into consideration.

Given that information is always our best weapon, below we will provide three characteristics with which we should all be familiar.

A Headache: What Factors to Take into Account Regarding its Seriousness

woman grabbing her head

Harvard University performed an interesting study about headaches. In the first place, to calm fears and worries, it is sufficient to say that in almost 95% of the occurrences of this painful condition, there is no symptom of any grave illness.

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Now that this is clear, a good percentage of this condition is debilitating. Illnesses such as migraines, lupus, depression or arthritis are related conditions where headaches are present.

We know that no one dies from these conditions alone, but quality of life is diminished. For this reason, these realities experienced in darkened rooms fall under the term “socially invisible illnesses.”

They undoubtedly represent complex realities. However, it is essential to know how to tell at what point a headache or supposed migraine is not normal, and alerts us to something more.

Let’s look at three characteristics that are important to take into account.

1.  When We Should Worry About Headaches

Harvard University published in the previously mentioned study a series of characteristics that we should always look for when we or someone close to us suffers a headache.

Take note:

  • Feel a sudden change in your headaches. Meaning that, if up to a point in time what was a sharp pain that went away with analgesics and now does not, we should consult a doctor about it.
  • We should ask for help if we experience what is known as “the worst headache of our lives” (symptom of a seizure).
  • If the pain increases upon coughing or upon moving, it is also abnormal.
  • We should also consider if the pain keeps us from carrying out our daily tasks.
  • There are people who become aggressive or irritable when suffering headaches. This is also abnormal.
  • Be very careful if this occurs with fever and stiffness in the neck.
  • If we also have difficulties seeing, speaking, weakness, dizziness or bloodshot eyes, we should go to the emergency room.
  • Doctors also warn us that it is also abnormal if the pain appears suddenly at night.
  • If we suffer a blow to the head and the pain persists, we should go to the emergency room immediately.

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2. Headaches and Seizure


Without a doubt, a stroke is what we worry about the most when a headache is one of the symptoms. Seizures affect both the young and the not-so-young. It is never too much precaution to remember these six signs of alarm:

  • Suddenly we feel a loss of strength on one side of the body: an arm, a leg, or half of your face.
  • Just as we have said before, when we experience the worst headache of our lives.
  • Likewise, the person feels an intense tingling in the face, arm or leg (on one side of the body).
  • We lose vision in one eye.
  • Difficulty in speaking or making ourselves understood.
  • sensation of vertigo, instability or losing one’s balance is common before suffering a seizure.

The “Demon of Headaches”

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We know the impact of migraines and tension headaches, but according to what neurologists and patients who have suffered them say, cluster headaches are the most painful.

What is most common when experiencing this condition is that we become scared and think “something bad” is happening. However, it is not grave.

It is painful and can paralyze our lives for a few hours, but as we have said, it does not hide any grave underlying illness.

  • Cluster headaches affect 1% of the population, especially men.
  • It is an intense and debilitating pain that can last from 15 to 90 minutes and appear many times during the day.
  • This illness is related to small problems with the hypothalamus and circadian rhythms. Sometimes, our life style, stress, lack of sleep or work combined together lead to this problem.

To conclude, a headache usually is almost always something non-threatening and associated with fatigue, tension, or even hormonal changes.

Nevertheless, once they affect your day-to-day routine or are associated with other symptoms such as those pointed out here, do not hesitate to consult your doctor to get a better diagnosis.

In these cases, a headache is a symptom of something we need to know about.