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Quick Facts

Overview of Headaches

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Last full review/revision Apr 2021| Content last modified Apr 2021
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Headaches are one of the most common reasons people go to the doctor.

What causes a headache?

The most common causes of a headache are:

Other causes of a headache are:

When should I see a doctor for a headache?

See a doctor right away if you have a headache and any of the following warning signs:

  • Changes in your vision, weakness, drowsiness, confusion, loss of balance, or trouble speaking

  • A fever and stiff neck

  • A sudden, very severe headache that came on like a thunderclap

  • Tenderness at your temple (as when combing hair) or jaw pain when chewing

  • Cancer, AIDS, or a weak immune system

  • A worsening headache

  • Red eyes and halos seen around lights

See a doctor within a week if you have:

  • Headaches that begin after age 50

  • Worsening vision

  • Weight loss

  • Headaches that are getting worse or more frequent

If you are older than 50 years old, any new headache or change in old headache should be seen by a doctor. Older people are more likely to have a serious cause for a headache, and even common headaches may be more difficult to treat in older people.

What will happen at my doctor visit?

How do doctors treat headaches?

Treatment depends on the type of headache you have:

  • If another health problem is causing your headache, doctors will treat that problem

  • For tension headaches or headaches due to viruses, doctors will have you take pain medicine such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or ibuprofen

  • For migraine, doctors will give you special medicine

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
TYLENOL
ADVIL, MOTRIN IB
No US brand name
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