There is a difference between a mild, irritating headache and severe headaches – and a severe headache can be an early warning sign of an impending stroke.
Headaches that come on rapidly and are severe have long been considered to be the dangerous precursor to a possibly debilitating stroke, especially when accompanied by other signs, such as numbness to one side of the face or body or weakness that is confined to one side of the body.
A sudden, severe headache that seems to have no origin and comes on quickly requires an immediate visit to the emergency department of your local hospital. While strokes are often thought to be problematic only in the aging population, the fact of the matter is that a stroke can occur at any age – and the faster that medical treatment is received, the better your chances are to prevent serious damage to the brain or even death.
Severe Headaches Increase Risk of Deadly Stroke
New research into severe headaches suggests that migraine-type headaches are not only a warning sign of stroke, but they may increase your risk for having a stroke later on in life.
One study looked at over 12,000 individuals (both male and female) with varying health histories; those who had a history of severe migraine headache pain were more likely to suffer the type of stroke known as an ischemic attack, which is a result of blocked blood vessels.
This study found that as compared with people who reported very few episodes of severe headaches during their lifetime, those who reported frequent severe headaches also showed greater occurrences of mini strokes and strokes.
The incidence of stoke appeared to be stronger in men and women who also complained of aural migraines, which are characterized as a severe headache accompanied by blurry vision and odd olfactory sensations (smells).
Severe headaches are thought to create a disturbance in the blood vessels, which may be why there is a high rate of stroke in migraine sufferers, even those who are younger and generally considered at less risk for stroke.
If you suffer from severe headache pain that is unrelated to stroke or impending stroke, treatment plans have advanced greatly in the past decade. In fact, severe headache can be completely managed with any of the new generation headache medicine options. Working with your family doctor or other healthcare professional, you can manage your severe headache pain with over-the-counter or prescription pain medications.
The Difference Between Severe Headaches and Stroke
If you suffer from severe headaches, you’re likely now very confused about distinguishing the pain of your headaches with the signs of impending stroke. For this reason, it is important to note that there is an overlap in symptoms between severe headaches and stroke, and that migraine symptoms and severe headache symptoms are very similar to stroke symptoms.
While some migraines may last as long as seventy-two hours, most migraines last much longer – but the symptoms of stroke are continual. With any severe headache, ruling out stroke or impending stroke is important, which necessitates treating severe headaches vital to being able to determine the difference.
If you experience frequent, severe headaches, it is crucial that you seek out treatment for the condition so that you can rule out stroke without constant visits to the emergency room.
There are also risk factors involved that might make you more suspicious that a severe headache could be stroke-related. As an example, a young woman with severe headache pain who smokes or takes oral birth control medication is more likely to suffer a stroke than a young woman who simply has severe headache pain. Older people, especially those who suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) are also more prone to have a stroke than older people whose blood pressure is normal or well-controlled.