When to see a doctor for your headaches

It is important to bear in mind that a headache may be a symptom of a more serious illness. 

See your doctor if: 

- You have more than the occasional headache

- Your headaches are severe or come on quickly

- Your headache is accompanied by any of the following (especially if you have not discussed these symptoms with your doctor before):

  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fever
  • Numbness
  • Persistent vomiting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Stiff neck
  • Unpredicted symptoms affecting your ears, nose, throat or eyes
  • Unrelenting diarrhoea
  • Vision loss
  • Weakness
  • You have a headache that persists, and continues to get worse or won’t stop
  • Your headaches interfere with your normal activities of daily life
  • You find yourself taking pain relievers more than two days a week
  • You take over-the-counter medications for headache relief, but the recommended dosage is not adequate
  • Coughing, sneezing, bending over, exercise or sexual activity cause headaches
  • You have headaches that continue and that began after a head injury or other trauma
  • The characteristics of your headaches change
  • The symptoms of your migraine attacks change

Read more: 

Treating headaches  

Causes of headaches  

Preventing headaches  

Reviewed by Dr Elliot Shevel, BDS, Dip MFOS, MB, BCh, Maxillo-facial and Oral Surgeon and Medical Director, The Headache Clinic, Johannesburg and Cape Town, February 2015.

Previously reviewed by Dr Andrew Rose-Innes, MD, Department of Neurology, Yale University School of Medicine, New Haven

Read more on: headaches health

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