We’ve all been there. The dull, throbbing pain in your head can signal the start of a headache, but how do you know if you need to see a neurologist for it? Dr. Annise Wilson, assistant professor in the Department of Neurology and Medicine – Pulmonary, Critical Care and Sleep Medicine, shares signs to watch out for.
Question: How often is too often to have a headache?
Answer: When headaches occur more than twice a week, if they disrupt daily activities and do not respond to pain relievers, then it is time to see a healthcare provider.
Q: What other signs should you watch for? Are there symptoms other than the actual headache to note?
A: Any systemic symptoms, including fever, chills, confusion, unintentional weight loss, vision or speech changes, new weakness or sensory changes, and/or new neck pain or stiffness, require urgent evaluation as this can indicate a more serious underlying illness. A change in headache quality or onset after age 50 is also concerning and requires a consultation for further assessment.
Q: Can over-the-counter medicines make headaches worse?
A: A phenomenon termed “medication-overuse headache” (also known as rebound headaches and analgesic overuse headaches) can occur after frequent long-term use of pain relievers such as NSAIDs.
Q: What are the most common types of headaches?
A: The most common headache types are tension headaches and migraine headaches. Tension headaches, as the name suggests, are caused by stress and mental or emotional conflict that trigger the pain. Migraine headaches are reoccurring attacks of moderate to severe throbbing/pulsating pain on one side of the head.
Q: What should someone do if they are getting frequent headaches?
A: If the headache is abrupt in onset and defined as “the worst headache of my life” (termed a thunderclap headache), one should seek emergency medical attention.
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By Anna Kiappes