St. Luke's Hospital
Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
America's 50 Best Hospitals
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia

    Print-Friendly
    Bookmarks

    Headaches - danger signs

    A headache is pain or discomfort in the head, scalp, or neck.

    Common types of headaches include tension headaches, migraine or cluster headaches, sinus headaches, and headaches that begin in your neck. You may have a mild headache with the common cold, the flu, or other viral illnesses when you also have a low-grade fever.

    Most people with headaches can feel much better by making lifestyle changes, learning ways to relax, and sometimes taking medications.

    Emergency Causes of Headaches

    Problems with blood vessels and bleeding in the brain can present as a headache. These include:

    • An abnormal connection between the arteries and veins in the brain that usually forms before birth. This problem is called an arteriovenous malformation, or AVM.
    • A stroke, when blood flow to part of the brain stops
    • A weakening of the wall of a blood vessel that can break open and bleed into the brain, called a brain aneurysm
    • Bleeding in the area between the brain and the thin tissue that cover the brain, called a subarachnoid hemorrhage

    Other worrisome causes of headaches include:

    • Blood pressure that is very high
    • Brain tumor
    • Hydrocephalus
    • Infection in the brain or the tissue that surrounds the brain, as well as a brain abscess
    • Pseudotumor cerebri, a process affecting the brain that appears to be -- but is not -- a tumor. It is often reversible.
    • A swollen, inflamed artery (which supplies blood to part of the head, temple, and neck area) called temporal arteritis

    When to Call the Doctor

    Take the following symptoms seriously. If you cannot see your health care provider right away, go to the emergency room or call 911 when:

    • This is the first headache you have ever had in your life and it interferes with your daily activities.
    • You develop a headache just after activities such as weightlifting, aerobics, jogging, or sex.
    • Your headache comes on suddenly and is explosive or violent.
    • You would describe your headache as "your worst ever," even if you regularly get headaches.
    • You also have slurred speech, a change in vision, problems moving your arms or legs, loss of balance, confusion, or memory loss with your headache.
    • Your headache gets worse over a 24-hour period.
    • You also have fever, stiff neck, nausea, and vomiting with your headache.
    • Your headache occurs with a head injury.
    • Your headache is severe and just in one eye, with redness in that eye.
    • You are over age 50 and your headaches just began, especially if you also have vision problems and pain while chewing.
    • You have cancer and develop a new headache.

    See your health care provider soon if:

    • Your headaches wake you up from sleep.
    • A headache lasts more than a few days.
    • Headaches are worse in the morning.
    • You have a history of headaches but they have changed in pattern or intensity .
    • You have headaches often, and there is no known cause.

    References

    Digre KB. Headaches and other head pain. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 405.

    BACK TO TOP

    • illustration

      • illustration

      A Closer Look

        Talking to your MD

          Self Care

          Tests for Headaches - danger signs

            Review Date: 12/21/2011

            Reviewed By: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.

            The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
            adam.com

            A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.


            Back  |  Top
            About Us
            Contact Us
            History
            Mission
            Locations & Directions
            Quality Reports
            Annual Reports
            Honors & Awards
            Community Health Needs
            Assessment

            Newsroom
            Services
            Brain & Spine
            Cancer
            Heart
            Maternity
            Orthopedics
            Pulmonary
            Sleep Medicine
            Urgent Care
            Women's Services
            All Services
            Patients & Visitors
            Locations & Directions
            Find a Physician
            Tour St. Luke's
            Patient & Visitor Information
            Contact Us
            Payment Options
            Financial Assistance
            Send a Card
            Mammogram Appointments
            Health Tools
            My Personal Health
            mystlukes
            Spirit of Women
            Health Information & Tools
            Clinical Trials
            Health Risk Assessments
            Employer Programs -
            Passport to Wellness

            Classes & Events
            Classes & Events
            Spirit of Women
            Donate & Volunteer
            Giving Opportunities
            Volunteer
            Physicians & Employees
            For Physicians
            Remote Access
            Medical Residency Information
            Pharmacy Residency Information
            Physician CPOE Training
            Careers
            Careers
            St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
            Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Patient Notice of Privacy Policies PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile