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When headache is dangerous: Symptoms requiring medical attention

When headache is dangerous: Symptoms requiring medical attention Illustrative photo (

When the head hurts, it is difficult to concentrate, learn, or work. Sometimes the headache goes away quickly, while in other cases, it arises regularly and lingers for a long time. In any case, it is important to remember that a headache can be a symptom of serious and dangerous conditions.

During the material preparation, the following sources were used: Ministry of Health of Ukraine, Public Health Center of the Ministry of Health of Ukraine, Into-Sana,, MedClinic, Еmpendium.

Main points about headache

Headache is a pathological condition of the human body. It has various causes and is often a symptom of serious illnesses.

Factors that can exacerbate headaches include changes in weather, working at night, sedentary work, staying in stuffy environments, mental strain, and more.

High levels of disability and deterioration of the health of the world's population are attributed to:

  1. Tension-type headache
  2. Cluster headache
  3. Migraine

Tension-type headache

Tension-type headache (TTH) is the most common type of primary headache. It occurs in both adults and adolescents (most commonly diagnosed in women).

It can start in the back of the head, neck, eyes, or even other muscle groups in the body and typically spreads to both sides of the head.

TTH accounts for approximately 90% of all headache cases. It can occur episodically, but 1-3% of patients experience a chronic course of the disease.

When headache is dangerous: Symptoms requiring medical attention

It's hard to find someone who has never had a headache in their life (illustrative photo: Pixabay)

Cluster headache

Cluster headache is a neurological disorder characterized by recurrent, intense pain on one side of the head, usually around the eye.

Characteristic features of cluster headache include:

  • Sudden onset of pain

  • Character of pain: piercing, burning

  • Light flashes in the eyes

  • Pain may radiate to the ear, temple area, lower jaw

  • Duration of attacks: from 15 minutes to several hours

  • Eye redness, tearing

  • Increased salivation, nasal congestion, pallor, nausea

Additional indicators of this disorder may include increased salivation, temporary vision loss, intensified pain on the lips, and in the eyes.


Migraine is a pulsating headache on one side of the head.

Symptoms of migraine include:

  • Moderate to severe pulsating pain on one side

  • Nausea (the most characteristic symptom)

  • Pain aggravated by routine physical activity

  • Pain lasting from two hours to two to three days

  • Recurrent attacks from once a year to once a week

According to WHO data, this type of headache ranks second among diseases affecting women aged 15-44 years, leading to significant loss of productivity.

Migraines are characterized by recurring attacks throughout one's life.

When headache is dangerous: Symptoms requiring medical attention

Migraines are observed more frequently in women (illustrative photo: Pixabay)

About which diseases headache may signal

Regular sudden headaches accompanied by a feeling of pressure on the eyes, nausea, and fever can indicate the onset of meningitis, inflammation of the brain membranes.

Increasing and throbbing headache at high temperatures (accompanied by photophobia, sound intolerance, and confusion) may indicate purulent meningitis.

The presence of a brain tumor can be indicated by a headache that occurs in the second half of the night or early morning. In addition, weakness in the limbs, nausea, visual disturbances, difficulty swallowing, sleep problems, and memory issues may be present.

A sudden headache that comes with fever, weakness on one side of the body, and slurred speech could be a sign of a stroke.

When to consult a doctor

In the presence of headaches, most Ukrainians engage in self-treatment and do not seek medical attention. Some do not take these symptoms seriously, while others are afraid to discover a more serious problem.

Doctors emphasize that self-administration of medications (in this case, over-the-counter analgesics) without control and for a prolonged period can lead to the development of dangerous side effects, ranging from allergic reactions to gastrointestinal disorders or liver and kidney damage.

In general, any severe headache (or a headache that persists for an extended period) requires examination.

The Ministry of Health advises seeking immediate medical attention if you (or your close ones):

  • have had a head injury

  • have been exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning

  • experience vomiting during a headache

  • have sudden lightning-like pain that reaches its maximum in 5 minutes

  • experience orthostatic pain (if a person was lying down and suddenly stood up)

  • are awakened from sleep by the headache

  • have progressive, prolonged (and/or severe) headache

  • experience a headache accompanied by other dangerous symptoms

When headache is dangerous: Symptoms requiring medical attention

Take care of your health (illustrative photo: Pixabay)

Prevention of headaches

Prevention of any illness is always simpler and cheaper than treating the ailment.

In the prevention of headaches, the following factors play a significant role:

  • Proper rest

  • Sufficient daily fluid intake

  • Enough sleep

  • Regular physical activity

  • Avoidance of habits harmful to health

It's essential to prioritize these aspects to reduce the risk of headaches. Additionally, maintaining a healthy lifestyle, managing stress, and addressing any underlying health conditions can contribute to preventing headaches.

Earlier, we explained how to distinguish what you are suffering from – whether it's the flu, a virus, COVID, or a cold.

This material is for informational purposes only and should not be used for medical diagnosis or self-treatment. Our goal is to provide readers with accurate information about symptoms, causes, and methods of detecting diseases. RBС-Ukraine is not responsible for any diagnoses that readers may make based on materials from the resource. We do not recommend self-treatment and advise consulting a doctor in case of any health concerns.