We often consider headache trivial. Most of us prefer taking analgesics on our own if we have one. On most occasions, we are better with self medications. However sometimes trivial looking headache could be a manifestation of a serious underlying disorder. It can potentially threaten your vision and on rare occasions your life. Let’s have look at a few serious illnesses with headache as their initial manifestation and how to recognize them.
How do I know that my headache is serious?
There are few warning signs which indicate that your headache is a harbinger of a serious underlying disorder. If any of these signs is present along with headache immediate medical attention should be sought. What are those signs?
- New onset headache which is very severe (worst headache of my life)
- Headache associated with loss of consciousness or drowsiness
- Presence of fever along with headache
- Nausea and vomiting during headache
- Double vision or new onset squint
- Loss of vision
- Convulsions or fits
- New onset headache above 50 years of age
- Weakness in any limb
- Change in the pattern of the previous headache
- Headache worsened by certain activities like coughing, straining, having sex.
- Headache which awakens you from sleep
- Headache which is severe in morning hours
What are some serious diseases which present with headaches?
- Subarachnoid hemorrhage– a disorder in which blood vessels in the brain have a weak wall and can rupture spontaneously
- Brain tumor– any tumor of the brain can present with headaches along with other warning signs like weakness of limb, convulsion, etc
- Idiopathic intracranial hypertension– a disorder in which pressure in fluid-filled spaces in the brain becomes very high due to which there is a gradual loss of vision which can become permanent if not timely treated
- Venous sinus thrombosis– a disorder in which blood draining from the brain is blocked due to clots causing damage to brain tissue.
- Meningitis– infection of the brain can present with fever and headache.
Most of the above-mentioned disorders are easily treatable if detected early. However, if neglected they can cause permanent damage to the brain and occasionally can be life-threatening. So don’t take your headaches lightly if any of the alarming features are present and consult a neurologist as soon as possible. Remember a stitch in time saves nine.
MD DM (Neurology)
Consultant, Neurology & Epileptology