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When Are Headaches Dangerous?

May 18, 2016

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Headaches are very common. In fact, most people experience them in some form at one time or another throughout their lives. The types and their symptoms can vary widely, ranging from occasional, tension-induced pressure to chronic, debilitating migraine pain. However, even though headaches can cause mild to severe discomfort and sometimes interfere with daily activities, most occurrences are not a cause for alarm.

Of course, pain is the body’s way of signaling that an injury or illness has occurred, and sometimes headache pain can result from a serious underlying condition. Therefore, it’s always a good idea to seek medical attention if you notice anything that is unusual for you, such as symptoms that are exceptionally severe or headaches that occur more frequently than normal. For instance, you should see a physician right away if you experience:

  • The worst headache you have ever had, even if you have regular headaches
  • A severe headache immediately after intense physical activity, such as weightlifting or jogging
  • An intense headache that comes on very suddenly
  • A headache accompanied by neurological symptoms, such as vision changes, dizziness, weakness, numbness, loss of balance, paralysis, speech difficulties, mental confusion, personality changes or seizures
  • A headache accompanied by fever, a stiff neck, nausea or vomiting
  • A headache that follows a head injury
  • A headache in one eye accompanied by redness in the affected eye
  • A headache that progressively worsens over 24 hours
  • A headache that wakes you up from sleeping
  • A headache that lasts for more than two days

Although these types of headaches can result from a variety of causes, it’s important to discuss them with an experienced specialist who can rule out or confirm the existence of a brain tumor. The multispecialty team of experts in the Neuro-Oncology Program at Moffitt Cancer Center can provide a comprehensive evaluation of headache symptoms to pinpoint the underlying cause. If our oncologists suspect a malignancy, we can perform advanced diagnostic tests on site, providing fast answers and prompt treatment, as needed.

If you have questions or would like to consult with a physician about headaches or for any other cancer-related reason, you can call 1-888-MOFFITT or complete a new patient registration form online. We do not require referrals.