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When to Call a Doctor About a Migraine

When to Call a Doctor About a Migraine Image
Dr. Betty Acker

Medically reviewed by Dr. Betty Acker, MD on September 4, 2020

As many as 12% of all people suffer from recurring migraines, but just because they’re common doesn’t mean they can’t be serious. For those who regularly experience headaches, it can be difficult to know when one has crossed the line into concerning territory.

While migraines themselves are rarely dangerous, a sudden or severe headache can sometimes be an indicator of a more serious health issue. It’s always important to err on the side of caution, but a headache usually needs to fall into one of a few categories in order to be cause for concern. These include:

  1. A first-time severe headache

If you don’t have a history of headaches or the headaches you do suffer from tend to be mild, having a severe headache for the first time is cause to seek medical care. While such a headache could just be a singular occurrence, there’s a good chance that this could be an indicator of future headaches to come, and in rare cases could be a medical emergency. 

If the headache appears gradually, talking to your doctor will help you find ways to relieve the pain and ensure that there’s nothing for you to worry about. If it arrives suddenly and without warning, you’ll want to seek medical attention immediately — sudden, extremely severe headaches can be a sign of serious medical problems.

  1. A headache that just won’t go away

Long-term headache sufferers generally know what to expect when one strikes: recurring migraines generally stay about the same pain level for about the same amount of time. For that reason, long-lasting headaches may be a reason to notify a medical professional.

While persistent headaches are generally nothing to worry about, one that sticks around after you’ve exhausted all of your options — rest, medicine, relaxation, and so on — might be a reason to seek further help. 

If the length of your headaches has caused you to continually take abortives for several consecutive days in a row, this can make future headaches both more severe and longer-lasting. Repeated intake of abortives can cause them to lose their effectiveness in the near term, so be cautious about medication when headaches stick around for too long.

  1. A sudden headache of unprecedented strength

If you suddenly experience the onset of the worst headache you’ve ever had before, call a doctor or go to the emergency room immediately. Like mentioned before, migraines themselves are generally harmless, but a sudden headache accompanied by debilitating pain can be a sign of something else entirely.

In rare cases, severe head pain could be an indicator or result of a stroke. Ophthalmoplegic migraines, another rare form of migraine accompanied by severe pain, can cause eye paralysis and should be attended to as quickly as possible. Sudden, severe head pain can also be the result of non-migraine issues such as glaucoma, arthritis, brain bleed or an injury — all of which require immediate medical care. 

While migraines are normally not a cause for serious medical concern, it’s important to know when to manage them yourself and when to seek help. If you’re looking to find the right migraine treatment for you, the Nurx medical team is always here to prescribe a personalized treatment plan and provide ongoing care. Get in contact with Nurx today to take control of your migraines.

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