warning signs dangerous headache

Disruptive First Headache with Vision Impairment

Giant cell arteritis (GCA), or temporal arteritis, is a disorder in which the arteries of your head, especially those running through your temples, become inflamed.

If you have never had a headache, but find yourself suddenly struck with a painful one that disrupts your daily routine, it may be a symptom of GCA.

A headache and visual disturbances are symptoms most frequently associated with GCA, according to a 2008 study published in the Canadian Journal of Ophthalmology.

This type of headache is a throbbing, persistent headache usually occurring in the upper neck region, behind the eyes and at the back of the head.

These areas may feel tender when touched, and may be accompanied with a burning sensation. The scalp may also feel tender upon contact with a comb, temples of eyeglasses or a hat.

Thunderclap Headache

As the name suggests, a thunderclap headache strikes very suddenly like a lightning bolt, inflicting pain that peaks in intensity within 60 seconds, persists and then subsides usually after an hour.

Thunderclap headaches are usually a symptom of subarachnoid hemorrhage. A sudden headache is the primary feature of subarachnoid hemorrhage, according to a 2007 study published in The Lancet.

It is a potentially fatal condition that results in swollen brain arteries, which ultimately rupture and bleed in, and all around, your brain. It can be fatal in itself, and can also lead to a stroke.

A significant majority of subarachnoid hemorrhage patients described the associated headache as “the worst headache of their life”, according to a 2010 study published in the British Medical Journal.

Nausea, vomiting and mental confusion might be associated symptoms.

Progressive Headache with One-Sided Numbness and Weakness

The heart pumps blood up to the brain through the arteries. After it is utilized by the brain for basic functions, the brain returns the blood back to the heart through channels called venous sinuses.

Often, these sinuses get clogged, causing a condition called cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT), which could lead to an accumulation of blood, and subsequent bleeding in and around the brain. This is a major cause of strokes.

A headache that persists with symptoms progressing over a few days, up to a week or more, could indicate CVT. The headache is usually the first and most commonly occurring symptom of CVT, according to a 2004 study published in the Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery and Psychiatry.

It is usually described as a sharp pain that occurs on one side and may be accompanied by speech and vision impairment, as well as sensitivity to light and loud sounds.

One of its defining characteristics is weakness and numbness on one side of the head, down to the shoulders and arms.

Headache with Neck & Face Pain

The carotid arteries are the four arteries along the sides of your neck delivering blood from your heart to your neck, face, ears and head.

Often, one of those arteries may suffer a tear, allowing blood to enter and fill up space between the different layers of the arteries. This separates them. This is called carotid artery dissection (CAD).

As the blood accumulates, it clots and prevents the flow of fresh blood from the heart to the brain. Eventually, this leads to a stroke.

The most commonly reported symptoms of CAD are sudden and intense headaches as well as neck pain, according to a 2004 study published in the Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association.

A headache accompanied by pain in the neck and face is a sign of oxygen deprivation and may indicate the development of CAD.