When Is a Headache Cause for Concern? We Asked 98point6 Physician Jud Heugel, MD


Headache post by Dr. Jud Heugel

While fairly common, headaches can still be a real pain—especially when they’re long-lasting or recurring. Dr. Heugel answers patients’ most frequently asked questions, including which “red flag” symptoms are worth a consultation with a physician.

Q: Why am I getting so many headaches? 

Dr. Heugel says: Most headaches are caused by simple lifestyle factors like stress, eye strain, lack of sleep or caffeine withdrawal. Other physiological factors like your monthly menstrual period or even seasonal allergies may also be the culprit.

If you have headaches that occur recurrently (i.e., over and over again) and tend to be more severe or intense, you may suffer from migraines or a chronic headache disorder. It’s a good idea to check in with a physician for an official diagnosis.

Q: What’s the best treatment for a headache?

Dr. Heugel says: I typically recommend patients take some time to rest and make sure to drink plenty of fluids (dehydration is a very common cause of headaches!). Over-the-counter pain medicines like ibuprofen, naproxen or acetaminophen can also help a lot. Relaxation training and acupuncture are other ways some choose to address their headache symptoms. Sometimes just being in a quiet room with dim lights can make a difference.

Q: What exactly is a migraine and how is it diagnosed?

Dr. Heugel says: As opposed to a typical/regular headache, migraines tend to be more severe or intense, sometimes causing nausea or vomiting…or even other strange symptoms like unusual smell aversions or sensitivity to light or sound. Many individuals have an aura sensation before their migraines where they basically sense that a headache is about to come on—and they are usually right.

People who suffer from migraines are usually fairly confident and accurate in their self-diagnosis, especially because headache disorders often run in families. That said, severe headaches always deserve a medical evaluation and an official diagnosis from a physician.

Q: When is a headache cause for concern?

Dr. Heugel says: As with anything health-related, if you ever find yourself experiencing symptoms more severe than usual, or note a major change in the pattern, you should consult a physician. Major “watch-outs” include:

  • Very sudden onset of severe headache
  • Vomiting with headaches
  • “Worst headache of my life” (High-intensity headache that feels different)
  • Headaches increasing in severity or intensity over time
  • Changes in speech or ability to communicate
  • Difficulty staying awake
  • Other symptoms also occurring like fever, weakness, rash, stiff neck

Got a nagging headache, or experiencing them with more regularity? A 98point6 physician can help you rule out other illnesses and guide you toward a treatment plan with no appointments, no travel and no waiting. Even when it turns out to be a regular headache (which occurs the vast majority of the time), it often feels reassuring to talk it over with a medical professional. Start a visit now.

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