Headaches - When Should You Worry?

From MyWebDoctor Services - Your health as your Doctor Sees it.

Common Causes of Headache

  • Stress /┬áDepression / Tension
  • Migraines / cluster headaches
  • Dehydration / inadequate fluid intake
  • Viral illness / sinusitis
  • Spasm from neck muscles

When Should You Worry?

As a doctor, I commonly get asked about headaches. At the back of my mind, I am always searching for clues that might lead to the nastier causes for a headache such as brain tumours and bleeds on the brain. Things I look out for are:

  • Headaches that are different from normal for that person.
  • Early morning headaches.
  • Any associated visual disturbances like blurred or double vision.
  • Odd sensations in the arms or legs, hands or feet.
  • Any recent head injuries.
  • Sudden onset of a severe headache.

Do I Need a Brain Scan?

Not everyone who has a headache needs a brain scan, and we should avoid exposing ourselves to unnecessary radiation. Doctors need to work out who would most benefit from a scan, and that’s not always easy. If you are suffering from any of the above symptoms then it may be recommended that you have a scan.

Migraines affect 8.5 million people in the UK. Identifying and avoiding the things that trigger migraines is an important part of managing them, says Dr Dawn Harper.

Dr Helen Webberley

Dr Helen Webberley

MBChB MRCGP MFFP

I am a GP with a practice in South Wales, UK. I am also passionate about delivering safe and easy to access healthcare via the Internet.

I run a business called Online GP Services Ltd offering easy access to advice and healthcare.

Should You Have a Brain Scan?

Tell me about your headache here, give me as much detail as possible – how long have you had it, where is it, what does it feel like, what makes it better or worse, any other symptoms with it?

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content provided by NHS Choices