Headache Red Flags

- Article by John Miller

When Should You Worry About a Headache?

In a small number of patients, your head pain might have a serious cause that needs investigation. These are called Red Flags, as they can be important signs of underlying conditions like brain tumors, aneurysms, strokes, meningitis, and other systemic illnesses. If you experience any of the following symptoms, seek urgent advice from your healthcare professional.

Thoroughly investigate any Red Flags!

We strongly recommend that you ask your doctor to investigate your headaches if they have any of these characteristics:

  • The worst headache you’ve ever had or a different type from your usual.
  • Your headache is triggered by exertion (like exercise, coughing, sneezing, or sex).
  • You’re over 50 years old.
  • Your headache persists despite treatment.
  • It came on suddenly.
  • You have central nervous system findings, such as motor weakness, memory loss, or slurred speech.
  • You have HIV or another compromised immune system.
  • You have a fever or other systemic symptoms, like weight loss or a rash.

If you have any of these Headache Red Flags symptoms, please consult your doctor immediately.

Less Urgent & Severe Headache Types

Fortunately, most headaches don’t need urgent medical investigation and should improve with proper treatment once accurately diagnosed.

For specific advice, consult your doctor or a headache physiotherapist.

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