Under the Hood

What Is Thunderclap Headache And How Do You Treat It?

Headache is one of the most annoying medical conditions that can occur anytime of the day. It affects not just your focus but how you function as long as you have it. 

There are different types of headaches affecting different areas of the head from the forehead, to temples and to the back of the neck. Commonly, you just need water, sleep and some medications for treatment. 

However, there is this one condition that requires immediate medical attention and in most cases can be considered an emergency. Thunderclap headache (TCH) appears very different from other common types of headaches. 

TCH causes extreme head pain that can be fatal that health experts recommend to call 911 or go to the nearest hospital quickly to identify and treat the condition, said Aneesh Singhal, vice chair of neurology quality and safety at Massachusetts General Hospital and associate professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School in Boston. 

TCH commonly affects young adults, he said in an article posted Tuesday on Harvard Health Blog. Estimates show that 30 percent to 50 percent of all cases of this type of severe headache lead to brain hemorrhage, stroke and brain swelling. 

Singhal said TCH can be triggered by physical activities, such as cough, exercise and sexual activity. As it may occur because of common and simple activities, a secondary thunderclap headache also happens. 

Unlike the primary TCH, the secondary headache may occur due to a ruptured brain aneurysm or infection, clots in a blood vessel, or bleeding in the brain. 

Doctors may require imaging of the brain and blood vessels to confirm the presence of TCH. If confirmed to be a secondary TCH, the patient may need a lumbar puncture or spinal tap. 

Singhal said that to date there is no available preventive medication for primary TCH. But bed rest could help since moving can trigger the headache. Laxatives, stool softeners, common pain relievers, such as acetaminophen (Tylenol) and ibuprofen (Advil), may also help reduce the pain. 

However, TCH patients should avoid certain drugs. Singhal said glucocorticoids, triptans and other anti-migraine medications may make the condition worse since they induce narrowing of brain arteries.

He also noted cannabis may have bad effects when having TCH. 

Headache Thunderclap headache (TCH) causes extreme head pain that can be fatal that health experts recommend to call 911 or go to the nearest hospital quickly to identify and treat the condition. Pixabay

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