Everyone experiences headaches at least once in a while. Stress, lack of sleep, alcohol, dehydration, and excess caffeine can trigger pain in any region of the head. But if you’re experiencing debilitating headaches accompanied by other symptoms, or headaches that occur several times per month, it may be a sign of an underlying condition.
Under rare circumstances, headaches can indicate serious medical conditions such as strokes, tumors, or meningitis. In these cases, knowing the difference between a regular headache and a potentially dangerous one can be life-saving.
If you or someone you love suffers from headaches, read on. Below, we asked our experts at Neuropathy & Pain Centers of Texas, with offices in Fort Worth and Arlington, Texas, to explain the accompanying symptoms that indicate the need for urgent medical attention.
When your headaches are accompanied by cognitive issues such as memory loss, difficulty processing new information, involuntary movements, and the inability to read or write as you used to do, your headache could indicate the presence of a brain tumor. Other symptoms that may indicate the presence of a tumor include loss of hearing, mood changes, and blurred vision.
Fortunately, about 80% of brain tumors are non-cancerous.
Fever and stiffness in the neck
The combination of fever, stiff neck, and headaches could indicate meningitis, an infection of the fluid and membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord. Viruses, bacteria, and parasites can cause meningitis.
Nausea, vomiting, fever, or sensitivity to lights are also signs that meningitis could be the culprit of your discomfort.
If your headache is accompanied by any of these symptoms, look for medical help as soon as possible. Meningitis can progress fairly quickly. It can cause permanent brain damage and even death.
Changes in speech, vision, or walking
If you slur words, have blurry vision, have trouble walking, or feel weakness on one side of your body or face, you may have suffered a stroke.
A stroke occurs when the blood supply to certain parts of the brain is cut off. As a consequence, the oxygen supply is cut off and cells die off within minutes.
If you suspect you experienced a stroke, seek emergency care as soon as possible. Early treatment can reduce the risk of brain damage and prevent other strokes from occurring.
Sudden and extreme pain
Extreme bursts of pain may indicate that a blood vessel has ruptured in the brain. When a blood vessel ruptures, it causes internal bleeding in the brain, which in turn can cause intense headaches. A headache related to a burst blood vessel is often accompanied by fatigue, nausea, and vomiting.
If your headaches reoccur and last for hours or even days at a time without responding to lifestyle modifications, rest, and painkillers, you may need medical attention.
Our experts at Neuropathy & Pain Centers of Texas specialize in the treatment of headaches. Let us help you find the root of your symptoms and alleviate your pain.