Headaches are a symptom of pain that occurs anywhere in the region of the head or neck. Most of the time, headaches are not anything to worry about and will simply go away on their own. You can usually help overcome a headache by drinking plenty of water, relaxing or taking painkillers.
However, there are a few cases when a headache might be something more serious. In this post for talkhealth, I will be exploring some of the signs and symptoms that might indicate it’s time to see a doctor about your headache.
If headaches occur when you are experiencing flu-like symptoms, there’s a chance it could be a case of encephalitis. This condition can initially mimic symptoms of the flu. Later symptoms can include confusion, seizures, changes in your personality and behaviour, loss of movement in parts of the body and loss of consciousness. If you or someone else experiences these more serious symptoms, it is important to immediately seek emergency help.
Stiff neck and fever
If you experience a headache along with a stiff neck and fever, it could be the sign of an emergency. These are symptoms of meningitis, an infection of the protective membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and confusion are also symptoms of meningitis. This condition can be deadly and you should seek emergency help immediately if you or someone you are with experiences this.
A severe and sudden headache
If you have a severe headache which comes on very suddenly, unlike anything you have experienced before, it could be a brain haemorrhage. This is when a bulge in a blood vessel bursts. Symptoms are not usually present until this occurs. This is an emergency and if it happens to you or someone you’re with, call for an ambulance immediately.
Strokes result from a blockage cutting off blood supply to the brain. If you’re worried that you or someone else may have had a stroke, remember to act F.A.S.T. If you notice facial drooping, arm weakness, and speech trouble, it’s time to call an ambulance.
If you’re finding that you have a new and sudden onset of a headache that is unlike a usual headache, you should discuss this with your doctor. Any numbness, tingling, weakness, visual disturbance, vomiting or nausea should also be reported, along with any weight loss or loss of appetite. If you have experienced fits or seizures, these should be investigated to exclude any underlying causes in the brain.
If you have a persistent or recurring headache that doesn’t feel right to you it is always worth seeing your doctor to get it checked out.
Dr Abby Hyams is a GP for MedicSpot private doctor service.