When to Worry About Headaches

House Call Doctor explains when a headache could be a symptom of something more serious.

House Call Doctor
1-minute read

When to Worry About Headaches

When someone comes to the office with a headache, they are often worried of something more serious: brain tumors, aneurisms, or other scary things. It’s my job to not only figure out what’s causing the headache, but to reassure people that they are not about to die from something terrible.

But here are three handy tips for the hyper vigilant -

  1. Though brain tumors can cause headache, they often do not.

  2. Aneurisms, which are areas of blood vessels that blow up like a balloon, can leak and cause a sudden severe headache. However, a ruptured aneurism causes profound weakness to parts of the body, and so headaches are rarely the main concern.

  3. Certain infections, such as influenza, meningitis, and Rocky Mountain spotted fever can also cause bad headaches (along with other symptoms).

What are the symptoms that should make you worry?

  • Sudden onset of a severe headache, especially one that awakens you from sleep          

  • Onset of regular headaches starting after age 50

  • Severe headache in the morning that is accompanied by vomiting

  • Any significant change to a person’s normal pattern of headache

  • Pain you’d call severe headache or “the worst headache ever”

  • Headache accompanied by confusion or other changes in mental status

  • Headache associated with red eyes

  • Headache following a head injury--especially if the headache gets worse over time

All of these are signs to get your headache checked promptly.

Woman with headache image from Shutterstock

Please note that all content here is strictly for informational purposes only. This content does not substitute any medical advice, and does not replace any medical judgment or reasoning by your own personal health provider. Please always seek a licensed physician in your area regarding all health related questions and issues.