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Overview of Headaches

By

The Manual's Editorial Staff

Full review/revision Apr 2021 | Modified Sep 2022
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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
Cafcit, NoDoz, Stay Awake, Vivarin
Anacin Adult Low Strength, Aspergum, Aspir-Low, Aspirtab , Aspir-Trin , Bayer Advanced Aspirin, Bayer Aspirin, Bayer Aspirin Extra Strength, Bayer Aspirin Plus, Bayer Aspirin Regimen, Bayer Children's Aspirin, Bayer Extra Strength, Bayer Extra Strength Plus, Bayer Genuine Aspirin, Bayer Low Dose Aspirin Regimen, Bayer Womens Aspirin , BeneHealth Aspirin, Bufferin, Bufferin Extra Strength, Bufferin Low Dose, DURLAZA, Easprin , Ecotrin, Ecotrin Low Strength, Genacote, Halfprin, MiniPrin, St. Joseph Adult Low Strength, St. Joseph Aspirin, VAZALORE, Zero Order Release Aspirin, ZORprin
7T Gummy ES, Acephen, Aceta, Actamin, Adult Pain Relief, Anacin Aspirin Free, Apra, Children's Acetaminophen, Children's Pain & Fever , Comtrex Sore Throat Relief, ED-APAP, ElixSure Fever/Pain, Feverall, Genapap, Genebs, Goody's Back & Body Pain, Infantaire, Infants' Acetaminophen, LIQUID PAIN RELIEF, Little Fevers, Little Remedies Infant Fever + Pain Reliever, Mapap, Mapap Arthritis Pain, Mapap Infants, Mapap Junior, M-PAP, Nortemp, Ofirmev, Pain & Fever , Pain and Fever , PAIN RELIEF , PAIN RELIEF Extra Strength, Panadol, PediaCare Children's Fever Reducer/Pain Reliever, PediaCare Children's Smooth Metls Fever Reducer/Pain Reliever, PediaCare Infant's Fever Reducer/Pain Reliever, Pediaphen, PHARBETOL, Plus PHARMA, Q-Pap, Q-Pap Extra Strength, Silapap, Triaminic Fever Reducer and Pain Reliever, Triaminic Infant Fever Reducer and Pain Reliever, Tylenol, Tylenol 8 Hour, Tylenol 8 Hour Arthritis Pain, Tylenol 8 Hour Muscle Aches & Pain, Tylenol Arthritis Pain, Tylenol Children's, Tylenol Children's Pain+Fever, Tylenol CrushableTablet, Tylenol Extra Strength, Tylenol Infants', Tylenol Infants Pain + Fever, Tylenol Junior Strength, Tylenol Pain + Fever, Tylenol Regular Strength, Tylenol Sore Throat, XS No Aspirin, XS Pain Reliever
Advil, Advil Children's, Advil Children's Fever, Advil Infants', Advil Junior Strength, Advil Migraine, Caldolor, Children's Ibuprofen, ElixSure IB, Genpril , Ibren , IBU, Midol, Midol Cramps and Body Aches, Motrin, Motrin Children's, Motrin IB, Motrin Infants', Motrin Junior Strength, Motrin Migraine Pain, PediaCare Children's Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer IB, PediaCare Infants' Pain Reliever/Fever Reducer IB, Samson-8
NOTE: This is the Consumer Version. DOCTORS: VIEW PROFESSIONAL VERSION
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