What Headaches Are Dangerous?

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Marlon Emmanuel Mcleod

April 30, 2023

If you experience frequent headaches, it’s important to be aware of which ones could be dangerous. Some headaches can be early warning signs or symptoms of a more serious health problem, like patent foramen ovale (PFO), hypertension, or heart disease.

Knowing the different types of dangerous headaches and what to look for can aid you get the treatment you need before a problem worsens and your health is at risk.

Here in this article, we will take an in-depth look at what headache is and what are its different types. We will also show you some tips that you can follow to prevent headaches. So keep reading this guide to learn everything you need to know about dangerous headaches.

What Are Headaches?


Headaches are commonly experienced discomfort that can range from mild to severe. Various factors, including stress, fatigue, and sinus congestion, can cause them. Headaches can also result from underlying medical conditions such as migraines or cluster headaches.

In most cases, the pain associated with headaches is caused by the tightening or constricting blood vessels in the head and neck. Headaches can be classified into two broad categories secondary and primary headaches.

  • Primary Headaches:

Primary headaches are those that originate from within the head itself and are not caused by any underlying medical condition. Common types of primary headaches include tension headaches, migraine headaches, and cluster headaches, each of which has its own unique symptoms. These headaches are generally mild to moderate in intensity and can last anywhere from 30 minutes to several days.

  • Secondary Headaches:

Secondary headaches result from an underlying medical condition or other external factors. They are typically more intense than primary headaches and can last several hours to several days. Common causes of secondary headaches include sinusitis, tension-type headaches, trauma, infection, and medications.


When you experience a headache, it is important to take note of the location, intensity, and duration of pain, as well as any other symptoms that may be present. If your headaches are severe or persistent, be sure to speak with your healthcare provider for further evaluation and treatment. Taking steps to reduce stress and maintain a healthy lifestyle can help to minimize the frequency and severity of headaches.

What Headaches Are Dangerous?

There are many types of headaches; some can be more serious than others. If you experience any sudden or severe headache or a headache that seems to be getting worse over time, it is important to see your doctor immediately. Types of headaches that could indicate an underlying medical issue include:

  • Thunderclap Headache: This very severe headache hits suddenly and can last for several seconds up to a few minutes. It could be an indication of an aneurysm, stroke, or other medical emergencies.
  • Persistent Daily Headache: This type of headache usually lasts more than 15 days per month and should always be evaluated by a doctor.
  • Headaches Associated with Fever, Neck Stiffness, and Vomiting: This type of headache is usually associated with meningitis or an infection in the brain and should be treated as soon as possible.
  • Headaches Caused by a Head Injury: If you experience a headache after a head injury, it could indicate that there was trauma to your brain. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.
  • Headaches Caused by Changes in Vision: If you have a headache that is accompanied by changes in your vision, it could be an indication of other underlying issues such as glaucoma or a stroke.

If you experience any of these kinds of headaches, do not wait to seek medical attention. It is important to have them properly diagnosed in order to ensure that any underlying medical conditions are treated as soon as possible.


Your doctor can help you determine the effective course of action for managing your headaches and getting relief from the pain. If you ignore or delay the diagnosis and treatment of a serious headache, you could be putting your health at risk.

What Are The Causes Of Headaches:

It is very hard to pinpoint the exact cause of headaches as many different factors, including physical and psychological issues, can trigger them. However, some of the most common causes of headaches include:

Stress or Tension:

One of the most typical causes of headaches is stress. Stress causes the body to release hormones like cortisol, which can cause tension in the shoulders, neck, and jaw, which can hurt when it comes to headaches. Additionally, stress often causes changes in eating habits, sleep patterns, and physical activity levels, which can also lead to headaches.

Stress can also lead to anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues, which can cause a person to experience chronic headaches. Not only does stress increase the likelihood of headache pain, but it can also worsen existing headaches by causing tension in the head, neck, and shoulder muscles. When these muscles are tight, they can pressure the nerves in the head, resulting in headaches.


Lack of Sleep:

One of the leading causes of headaches is lack of sleep. When a person does not get enough sleep, their body releases hormones such as cortisol which can lead to tightness in the shoulders, neck, and jaw that can cause headache pain. Additionally, lack of sleep often causes changes in eating habits, physical activity levels, and stress levels, all of which can increase the likelihood of experiencing a headache.

Chronic lack of sleep can also result in a condition known as rebound headaches. Rebound headaches are caused by the body’s attempt to make up for lost sleep and cause tension in the head, neck, and shoulder muscles because of increased activity during waking hours. This can put pressure on the nerves in the head, which can result in headaches.

Alcohol Consumption:

One of the common factors that contribute to headaches is excessive alcohol consumption. It is known that headaches are a common symptom after drinking too much, which can be caused by dehydration or the presence of toxins in the alcohol itself.

In addition to causing hangovers, excessive drinking can also lead to long-term health consequences such as liver damage and impaired judgment. Individuals who drink a lot of alcohol or beer are more likely to engage in risky behaviors and can suffer from depression, anxiety, or other serious mental health issues. Regular drinking can also lead to more severe headaches like migraines.

Certain Foods:


Certain types of food can also be a cause of headaches. Eating foods that are high in histamine or tyramine, such as aged cheeses, smoked or cured meats, and canned fish like tuna, can trigger headaches. Caffeinated drinks like coffee and soda have been known to lead to headaches for some people, as well as monosodium glutamate, or MSG, which is found in many processed foods.

Eating too much sugar can also cause headaches as the body tries to process the sudden influx of calories. Skipping meals or not eating enough food can lead to low blood sugar and headaches.

What Are the Other Types of Headaches?

As mentioned previously, headaches are divided into two main categories, primary and secondary. However, within those categories, there are multiple types, such as:

Migraine Headaches:

Migraine headaches are intense, throbbing hurt on one side of the head and are usually accompanied by an aura before the attack. People may experience heightened sensitivity to light, sound, and smell. Nausea and vomiting are also common symptoms. Migraine headaches tend to be recurrent in nature and can stay from a few hours up to days for some people.

These types of headaches may be triggered by stress and anxiety, sleep disruption, hormonal changes, skipping meals, and dehydration. Certain foods and medications may also trigger an attack because of their impact on the body. Bright lights and loud noise can also be triggers of migraine headaches.

Many healthcare professionals believe that the causes of migraine headaches are still not fully understood, but they tend to have a genetic component. Migraine headaches are more common in those with preexisting conditions such as depression and epilepsy.


But it can be treated! Managing triggers and lifestyle changes, such as regular exercise and getting adequate sleep, can help reduce the frequency of migraine headaches. Over-the-counter medications may help, but they are not always effective. Many people benefit from prescription medications that work to prevent or relieve symptoms of a migraine attack.

In severe cases, injections may be necessary for relief. If you’re experiencing migraine headaches, it’s important to talk to your healthcare provider to comprehend the best treatment options. With proper management, you can minimize migraines’ impact on your daily life.

Cluster Headaches:

Cluster headaches, also known as histamine headaches or Horton’s Syndrome, are a type of primary headache. These severe and debilitating headaches typically last between 15 minutes and three hours. They are named because they occur in clusters over days or weeks, with individuals experiencing multiple episodes per day during peak periods – hence the term “cluster.”

Cluster headaches cause intense stabbing or burning pain behind the eyes and around the temples, which is made worse by movement and light. Other symptoms may include a runny nose, watery eyes, facial swelling, sweating on one side of the face, drooping eyelids, and pupil constriction.


Cluster headaches are more common in men compared to women and tend to affect adults between 20 and 60, though they can also affect younger people. The reason for cluster headaches is not yet known, but it is thought to be related to changes in the hypothalamus – a part of the brain which controls hormones and functions such as wake/sleep cycles.

People with cluster headaches may be prescribed preventive medications to reduce the frequency and severity of their episodes. These may include anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or calcium channel blockers.

Corticosteroid injections and oxygen therapy are also sometimes used, while other treatments such as physiotherapy, acupuncture, cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT), and relaxation techniques may also help to reduce headaches.

Tension-Type Headaches:

Tension-type headaches (TTH) are also the most common type of primary headache, affecting up to 78% of adults. They can be either episodic or chronic in nature and cause a wide range of symptoms. Commonly, TTH causes a dull, pressing, or squeezing sensation on both sides of the head that may last for minutes to days and can be accompanied by a feeling of tension in the neck or shoulder muscles.

The exact cause of TTH is unknown, but it may be due to stress, muscle tension, poor posture, or changes in brain chemistry. Contributing factors can include medication overuse, alcohol consumption, and lack of sleep. In some cases, underlying medical conditions such as sinus infections, sleep apnea, or fibromyalgia may also be involved.


The diagnosis of TTH is typically based on the patient’s history and physical examination. Before making a diagnosis, it is important to exclude other causes of headaches, such as migraine and cluster headaches. Additionally, imaging studies may help rule out other causes of headaches, such as brain tumors or strokes.

Treatment for TTH usually involves medications that help reduce pain and relax muscles, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), tricyclic antidepressants, and muscle relaxants. In some cases, preventive treatments may be necessary to reduce the frequency of headaches, such as amitriptyline, topiramate, botulinum toxin injections, or biofeedback.

TTH can be a debilitating condition, but effective treatments can significantly reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches and help people lead more active lives. It is essential to consult with an expert to determine the effective course of treatment for your particular circumstances. With proper care, it is possible to manage TTH and improve your quality of life effectively.

Exertional Headaches:

Exertional headaches are a kind of headache that occurs during or after physical activity, generally persist for minutes to hours, and can be quite severe. These headaches usually occur in people who do not normally suffer from headaches and can be associated with strenuous activities such as running, weightlifting, swimming, gymnastics, and even sexual intercourse.

The exact cause of exertional headaches has yet to be fully understood. However, they may be related to rapid changes in intracranial pressure and altered levels of serotonin and other neurotransmitters associated with migraine headaches. Exertional headaches are more common in athletes than in regular people, but this does not necessarily indicate that you have to be an athlete in order to suffer from this type of headache.


Symptoms of exertional headaches can include pain on one or both sides of the head, most often near the temples or at the back of the neck & head. The pain may also peak during and shortly after exercise, but it can linger afterward for hours or even days. Some people may also experience nausea, sensitivity to light and sound, blurred vision, and even vomiting.

Exertional headaches can be treated with over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. If these medications do not help relieve the symptoms, then more specialized treatments such as biofeedback, relaxation techniques, and medications specifically prescribed for migraines may be necessary. See a doctor if you are experiencing frequent or severe headaches, as they can help determine the cause and provide the best course of treatment.

It is also essential to take preventive measures before engaging in strenuous physical activity. Make sure to stay hydrated, warm up slowly and stretch thoroughly before starting your activity. With the proper medication and lifestyle changes, reducing the frequency and intensity of exertional headaches is possible, allowing you to lead a more active lifestyle.

Hormonal Headache:

Hormonal headaches are a type of headache that is caused by fluctuations in the hormones that occur during certain stages of life. They usually affect women between 25 and 55, but anyone can experience them. Hormonal headaches can be triggered by hormonal changes related to menstruation, menopause, pregnancy, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), oral contraceptive use, and the onset of menopause.

Hormonal headaches can range from a dull, throbbing pain to a sharp burning sensation. It is essential to note that some women may experience only mild discomfort while others will experience severe pain. The length of time for which a hormonal headache lasts can vary as well; some can last a few hours or even days, while others may linger for weeks.


Common symptoms of hormonal headaches include pain on one side of the head area, sensitivity to noise and light, nausea, blurred vision, neck stiffness, and fatigue. It is important to be aware that these symptoms can also be associated with other types of headaches, such as migraine and tension-type headaches.

If you experience hormonal headaches, you must talk to your doctor about them. Your doctor will be able to diagnose the type of headache and provide treatment options that are tailored to your specific case. Treatments for hormonal headaches may include lifestyle changes, medications, hormone therapy, or alternative therapies such as acupuncture and relaxation techniques.

Hormonal headaches can be disruptive and even debilitating, so it is important to recognize the signs and symptoms. If you think you may be experiencing hormonal headaches, it is important to consult your doctor as soon as possible for proper diagnosis and treatment.


Headaches can be dangerous, especially if they are a new type of headache for you. You should always consult with a doctor to discover the cause of your headaches and to rule out any more serious conditions. There are several kinds of headaches that are known to be dangerous, so it’s important to know what to watch out for.

Migraines, cluster headaches, and thunderclap headaches are all potentially dangerous, so make sure you know the symptoms and get help if you experience any of them. We hope this article has provided you with a full understanding of what types of headaches can be considered dangerous and how to recognize them.


What are the symptoms of a dangerous headache?


 A dangerous headache can be very serious and even life-threatening. Symptoms can include:

  • A severe, throbbing headache.
  • Nausea, vomiting, very blurred vision.
  • Sensitivity to light or sound.
  • Feeling sluggish, confused, or disoriented.

How can you tell if your headache is dangerous?

Suppose your headache is accompanied by fever, stiff neck, confusion, seizures, double vision, deficiency on one side of the body area, or slurred speech. In that case, it’s considered a dangerous headache, and you should seek medical attention right away.

When you have a dangerous headache, what do you need to do?

If you have a dangerous headache, the best thing to do is go to the emergency room. Headaches can be caused by various things, some of which are very serious and require immediate medical attention. For example, a headache could be an indication of a brain aneurysm, which is a life-threatening condition.

Are all headaches dangerous?

 Not all headaches are dangerous, but there are a few types of headaches that can be a symptom that something serious is going on. For example, a headache accompanied by fever, stiff neck, rash, confusion, or seizures could signify meningitis, and you should get medical help immediately.

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