A severe headache is the symptom most commonly associated with a migraine attack, and is caused by the dilation of blood vessels on the brain after the release of a chemical onto the brain surface. This then triggers other parts of the body's mechanisms thus causing the numerous other symptoms of vomiting, distorted vision, nausea etc.
However, a severe headache does not necessarily mean a person is suffering from a migraine and because of this misconception migraine sufferers are often dismissed as 'just having a headache'.
In fact, a severe headache is just the beginning of an attack that comes in stages with varying associated symptoms and can last up to three days.This is why specific treatments are so important to sufferers. Migraleve is specifically designed to have a double action effect, easing both the severe headache and nausea.
Sudden, severe headache that is worse than any headache the patient has ever had is the classic red-flag for subarachnoid bleed; however, it can also occur with cerebral sinus thrombosis, arterial dissections, and idiopathic intracranial hypertension. Monitor these patients with pulse oximetry, watch blood pressure and ECG closely, establish intravenous access, and obtain an emergency head CT. Elevate the head of the bed to 30 degrees.
SERIOUS CAUSES OF HEADACHE
- TEMPORAL ARTERITIS. This is due to inflamation of the arteries in the scalp - typically the temporal artery in front of the ear. It is more of a head pain than an ache and the patient finds the affected blood vessel very tender to touch.
- MENINGITIS. This is an inflammation of the meninges or membrane around the brain. It is often very serious and untreated can quickly cause the death of the patient or cause permanent damage leaving the patient disabled.
- STROKE. Can frequently cause headache - but there will always be other signs and symptoms
- BLOOD PRESSURE. On its own hardly ever causes headache - though we often take the opportunity to check it.
- SUB-ARACHNOID HAEMORRHAGE. This is due to a bleed in the space between the brain and the arachnoid layer of the meninges.
- BRAIN TUMOUR. As with stroke it is uncommon for there to be no other symptoms. Usually the onset is gradual over a period of weeks.