Under the Hood

Headache Warning Signs To Watch Out For

The question of “When is a headache a cause for concern?” has sparked discussions in the medical field for years now.

Dr. Elizbeth Loder says most regular headaches are not serious. In fact, these can easily be treated by home remedies. However, it is also crucial to increase the public’s awareness when it comes to the types of headaches that require urgent medical attention.

Loder is the Chief of the Division of Headache in Harvard-affiliated Brigham’s Department of Neurology. According to her, here are some of the headache warning signs to watch out for:

1. Cluster

A distinguishing factor of cluster headaches is that these strike about five times more in men than in women patients. As the name suggests, this type of headache comes in clusters. The pain is quite severe and it usually strikes on one side of the head.

Unfortunately, there aren’t many drugs that can help people who are suffering from cluster headaches. While there are some medications that can shorten the duration of attacks, it is still advisable to seek the help of a medical professional when cluster headaches occur.

2. Migraine

Migraines are actually much more dangerous than what most people believe. According to Loder, there is an acronym that will help you remember the effects of migraines, and it's P.O.U.N.D., which stands for pulsating pain, one-day duration of severe untreated attacks, unilateral one-sided pain, nausea and disabling intensity.

3. Tension

Tension is considered as the most common type of headache. An attack from this type of headache makes one experience dull and squeezing pain on both sides of the head. At times, the back and the neck can also start hurting. What’s worse is that a tension headache attack can last from 30 minutes to about seven days.

The good news is that unlike other critical types of headache, tension can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers. If you are experiencing tension, might as well take some Tylenol or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications.

People often take naps or a light snack should they feel some kind of headache. While these acts typically work, unattended headache warning signs can pose a higher level of risk to the individual.

Thus, as Loder has explained, it is important to distinguish which type of headache you have so you can seek for urgent medical attention.

Headache A patient receives a traditional Chinese medical treatment with needles and ignited dry moxa leaves on her temples to cure her headache and insomnia, at a hospital in Suining, Sichuan province September 13, 2010. ie Zhao/Corbis via Getty Images

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