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When to seek medical advice about your migraines or headaches

Any kind of pain is your body's way of warning you about an injury or illness. Although migraines and headaches are rarely the symptoms of a serious illness, they may occasionally indicate a serious medical condition such as a tumour or aneurysm (blood vessel rupture). It is important for you to become familiar with your personal headache symptoms, and those which require immediate medical attention.

If you or someone close to you have any of the following headache symptoms, seek medical help immediately:

  • A sudden, new severe headache
  • A headache associated with neurological (nerve) symptoms such as weakness, dizziness, sudden loss of balance or falling, numbness or tingling, paralysis, speech difficulties, mental confusion, seizures, personality changes/inappropriate behaviour or vision changes (blurry vision, double vision or blind spots)
  • Headache with a raised temperature, shortness of breath, stiff neck or rash
  • Headache pain that wakes you up at night
  • Headaches with severe nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches that occur after a head injury or accident
  • Getting a new type of headache after 55 years old

The following migraine or headache symptoms do not require urgent care, but you should seek medical advice promptly if you, or your loved one, have any of these symptoms.

  • Have three or more headaches a week
  • Have headaches that keep getting worse and won't go away
  • Need to take a painkiller every day or almost every day for your headaches
  • Need more than two or three doses of over-the-counter medication a week to relieve headache symptoms
  • Have headaches that are triggered by exertion, coughing, bending or strenuous activity
  • Have a history of headaches, but have noticed a recent change in your headache symptoms

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Medically Reviewed by Dr Rob Hicks on June 19, 2012

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