Thursday 16 September 2021
Many people get headaches from time to time, and they usually turn to pain relievers to relieve it.
Health experts unanimously agree that headaches should not be underestimated, especially if they recur frequently, as they can be an early sign of fatal diseases such as stroke.
And it’s not just older people who have to be alert for headaches. According to a February 2020 article in the journal Stroke, 10-15% of all strokes occur in people between the ages of 18 and 50.
It also found people under the age of 50, who make up half of the annual deaths from ruptured blood vessels in the brain, which is usually accompanied by severe and sudden headaches, according to what was reported by “Sputnik”.
What is primary and secondary headaches?
Primary headaches are a condition in their own right, and their forms vary to include migraine, cluster, and tension headaches, but secondary headaches are those that occur as a result of another health condition or disease, which can be serious and require urgent medical attention.
Primary headaches like migraines are usually not life-threatening, although they can be debilitating, says Roderick Spears, MD, a neurologist and headache specialist at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia.
According to a review published in January 2018 in the American Journal of Medicine, 90% of people who seek treatment for head pain are found to have primary headaches.
When do I know that a headache may be an indication of a serious illness?
The American Headache Society (AHS) says that if you have a new headache that lasts all day and night, it’s a cause for concern and is highly likely to be a secondary headache.
Imaging tests such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), a lumbar puncture to check spinal fluid, or blood tests help diagnose the cause of a person’s headache.
What are the symptoms that indicate that the headache is serious?
Systemic symptoms are those you feel in other parts of your body, besides your head. Conditions that may cause such symptoms include vasculitis, cancer, meningitis and infection.
There are neurological symptoms of numbness and severe pain in the face or a feeling of weakness on one side of the body, blurred vision and confusion, and it may be a sign that you have a stroke or a type of tumor.
Sometimes the headache is more severe than usual and sudden without warning, and it may be an indication of a brain hemorrhage.
If you’re over 50 and have a new or gradual headache, giant cell arteritis or a brain tumor may be the cause.
Change style or progress
A new headache is a cause for concern if it’s significantly different from your usual headache, if the headache occurs often, or if it’s the worst headache you’ve ever had.
If the headache is caused by sitting or standing, it may be related to high or low cerebrospinal fluid pressure.
A high pressure headache, also known as intracranial hypertension, results from high pressure inside the skull due to too much cerebrospinal fluid.
Spontaneous intracranial hypotension is a low-pressure headache that results from a drop in cerebrospinal fluid pressure in the brain caused by a fluid leak.
Papillary edema occurs when increased pressure in or around the brain causes part of the optic nerve inside the eye to swell. This is considered a medical emergency.
Headache caused by high blood pressure
Severe high blood pressure can cause headaches (and sometimes nosebleeds) in people with or without diagnosed high blood pressure.
This type of headache only occurs when blood pressure is very high (180/120 mmHg) or higher (normal blood pressure is 120/80 mmHg).
Cluster headache signs
While cluster headaches are a type of primary headache rather than a sign of another underlying condition, the intense pain these headaches cause can lead some people to commit suicide.
Cluster headaches come on suddenly and cause severe, piercing pain on one side of the head. A runny nose is also common, and cluster headaches generally last between 15 minutes and 3 hours without treatment.
Seek help for serious and sudden headaches
Although most headaches aren’t serious and will go away on their own, it’s important to know when headache pain is a sign of a bigger problem.
“If your headaches are bad, new, or changing, see a doctor,” advises Stephen D. Silberstein, director of the Jefferson Headache Center at Thomas Jefferson University in Philadelphia and past president of the American Headache Society.