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When Are Headaches Cause for Concern?

Headaches are extremely common — but when is your head pain normal and when should you be concerned? Most people will experience a headache at some point during their lifetime. Millions of Americans, however, experience frequent or severe headaches, and sometimes headaches are a warning sign of something more serious.

Fortunately, headaches are manageable. People with regular, unusual, severe, or otherwise bothersome head pain can rely on health care providers like internal medicine physician Samuel Fink, MD, for high-quality headache care. If you’re plagued with headaches, don’t delay seeking a professional evaluation. Treatments are available to relieve your pain.

Here, we explain some of the things to look out for that signal you should pursue treatment for your headaches.

Headache 101

Everyday things like stress, hormonal changes, and certain medications can cause headaches. For many people, though, headaches just happen. These are three of the most common types of headaches:

The exact cause of most headaches is unclear, but it is known that nerves, blood vessels, and muscles in the head and neck are involved.

When you should see a doctor about headaches

If any of the following situations applies to your headaches, it’s time to see a doctor.

Headaches that appear with regularity 

Headaches that appear regularly are cause for concern. Whether you get a headache like clockwork right before the start of your menstrual cycle or you get weekly head pain, regular headaches are a sign that you should seek evaluation and treatment.

Moderate to severe headaches

While mild headaches are more of a nuisance, moderate to severe headaches can really take the wind out of your sails. These headaches may interfere with your productivity at work, cause you to miss school, and keep you from enjoying life to the fullest.

You don’t have to suffer with head pains. If your headaches interfere with your daily life in any way, it’s best to see a doctor. 

Headaches that last several days

Anytime you experience headaches that persist for several days, you should see a doctor. A severe type of migraine can last for several days or even weeks. Headaches that last several days can make life miserable and make it difficult to carry out your normal daily responsibilities.

Sometimes a persistent headache pain originates in your neck. These are known as cervicogenic headaches.

Headaches that change in pattern or frequency

If you experience headaches that drastically change in pattern or frequency from what you’re used to, talk to a doctor. If you’re currently being treated for headaches, your doctor can evaluate how your headaches have changed and may tweak your treatment. 

When to seek immediate medical care

Most headaches are not life-threatening. However, there are some warning signs that you should not ignore. Get medical attention immediately if you experience any of these:

Positional headaches

Headaches that change in intensity depending on the position of your body, such as from lying down to standing up. These can be a warning sign of a serious underlying condition such as a cerebrospinal fluid leak

Excruciating headaches

Extremely severe headaches require urgent medical attention. Think of the absolute worst possible headache. These excruciating headaches may be a sign that something serious is amiss. A hypertension crisis or aneurysm are two examples of urgent issues that cause severe headaches. 

Headaches triggered by increased pressure

If your headache is triggered by coughing, sneezing, or straining, it could be a sign of something serious. Problems with blood pressure regulation and severe sinus obstruction can cause this type of headache. 

Headaches accompanied by worrisome symptoms

A headache accompanied by chills, fever, dizziness, or problems walking should set off immediate alarm bells. If this happens, seek medical assistance right away.

If you’re dealing with headaches, it may seem as if they never relent. Dr. Fink can help diagnose your headaches and determine the best treatment approach to getting you the relief you need. Call our office in Tarzana, California, to schedule a visit, or request an appointment online.

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