When A Headache Needs Emergency Attention

Most headaches are nothing to worry about, but if the headache is accompanied by certain symptoms, it can become serious very quickly. Be sure to take the proper steps, beyond medication and caffeine, to get the help you need for your headache.

What Different Headaches May Mean

Headache + Neck Stiffness + Fever
A headache accompanied by neck stiffness and fever could point to meningitis. Meningitis is caused by inflammation of the brain and spinal cord’s protective membranes. It can be deadly, so go to your nearest emergency center for medical attention.

Headache + Confusion + Neurological Deficits + Weakness On One Side
A headache accompanied by confusion, memory loss, balance problems, dizziness, blurred vision, weakness on one side of the body, neurological deficits (difficulty walking or speaking), or seizures could signal a stroke. If you believe someone is having a stroke, get him or her to the nearest emergency center.

Headache + Redness In One Eye
Although this combination of symptoms may not be life-threatening, it could be a form of acute glaucoma. It is characterized by rapid pressure buildup on the optic nerve. Head to the emergency room because it could lead to blindness if left untreated.

Headache + Scalp Tenderness + Jaw Pain + Temple Pain
These symptoms are characteristic of temporal arteritis. This autoimmune condition involves inflammation of arteries and mostly occurs in older patients. Seek emergency medical assistance if you experience a combination of these symptoms.

“The worst headache ever”
If you are having the worst headache you have ever had, you may have a ruptured aneurysm. This means that a blood vessel in the brain has torn and a part of the brain is being cut off from the blood supply. Go to an emergency center immediately. Learn more about The Warning Signs of Brain Aneurysms.

Other Symptoms To Look For

Each individual’s headache case is different. Certain symptoms can point to various diagnoses. Go to the nearest emergency center if:

  • This headache is different from others you have experienced
  • You are over the age of 50 and this is your first acute headache
  • You have a severe headache after hitting your head (See When To Visit the Emergency Room Following a Head Trauma)
  • You have HIV/AIDS or cancer and are having a new headache

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