When Do Headaches Require A Doctor’s Visit?

Everyone experiences headaches at some point. How can people know when headaches require medical attention? Certain symptoms may indicate a need for immediate emergency intervention. People who experience recurrent headaches or migraines may also want to see a doctor to find long-term relief.

Center for Family Medicine Headaches When To See A Healthcare Provider For Long Term Relief

When to seek emergency care

In some situations, headaches may require immediate medical attention. Some headaches can be a symptom of a more serious underlying medical condition. Some signs that a person needs emergency care can include:

  • Confusion or trouble understanding words
  • Fainting
  • Fever of 102 F or higher
  • Numbness or paralysis
  • Trouble walking, seeing, or speaking

When to make a doctor’s appointment

Recurrent migraines may not always require a call to 911, but a visit to the doctor can help with symptom improvement and relief. If a person is getting 3 or more headaches per week, is needing to take pain relievers daily, or has migraines that interfere with work or social activities, a doctor’s appointment may be needed.

Types of headaches

People can experience many different types of headaches, and some are more worrisome than others. For example, a thunderclap headache is one that immediately reaches full intensity. This type of headache requires immediate medical attention. About 30% of people who have recurrent migraines also experience neurological, or aura, symptoms, such as tingling or changes in vision. Typically, these aura symptoms resolve within 60 minutes. If these symptoms don’t resolve, patients should seek medical attention.

Treatment for migraines

Depending on the severity and frequency of migraines, doctors may prescribe medications to either relieve pain or prevent the onset of pain. Treatment may also focus on lifestyle changes and home therapies to reduce pain. Some of these can include placing a cool cloth on the forehead or back of the neck, staying hydrated, and sticking to a consistent sleep routine. Regular exercise can also help decrease migraine symptoms. For many people, keeping a journal of migraine symptoms and triggers can help to identify what activities or foods to avoid to prevent headaches.

Find relief today

Headaches are common, but the pain should not interfere with daily life. If people are relying on pain medications, experiencing multiple headaches per week, or canceling activities because of headache pain, treatment may be needed. Talk with a healthcare provider to find long-term relief today.