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When to See a Doctor for a Migraine or Headache


Statistically, most headaches and Migraine attacks are painful and disruptive, but not dangerous. Still, head pain can be a symptom of other conditions, some of them quite serious. Additionally, even though many of us have been told, "A Migraine never killed anyone," that's not exactly true. There are cases where Migraines cause strokes, and strokes can be fatal, including Migrainous strokes. There are times when having a headache or Migraine attack means you need to see a doctor.

See your doctor if...

  • you have more than the occasional headache.
  • your headaches are severe or come on suddenly.
  • your headache is accompanied by any of the following (and you have not discussed them with your doctor previously):
    • confusion
    • dizziness
    • fever
    • numbness
    • shortness of breath
    • slurred speech
    • stiff neck
    • persistent vomiting
    • unexpected symptoms affecting your ears, nose, throat, or eyes
    • unremitting diarrhea
    • vision loss
    • weakness
    • paralysis
  • you have a headache that persists keeps getting worse and won't stop.
  • you have headaches that interfere with your normal activities.
  • you find yourself taking pain relievers more than two days a week.
  • you take over-the-counter medications for headache relief, and the recommended dosage isn't adequate.
  • coughing, sneezing, bending over, exercise, or sexual activity cause headaches.
  • you have headaches that began after a head injury or other trauma and continue.
  • the symptoms of your Migraine attacks change.
  • the characteristics of your headaches change.

See your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room or an urgent care facility if...

  • you're having your "worst headache ever."
  • you're having your "worst Migraine attack ever."
  • your headache or Migraine is accompanied by:
    • unresolved loss of vision
    • loss of consciousness
    • uncontrollable vomiting
  • the pain of a Migraine attack lasts more than 72 hours with less than a solid four-hour pain-free period, while awake.
  • you experience a headache or Migraine attack that presents unusual symptoms that are abnormal for you and frightening.


There are times when headaches and/or unusual Migraine symptoms are indications of something that needs medical care. Some people are reluctant to call their doctors or go to the emergency room because they don't want to get there and find out that nothing out of the ordinary is wrong. Please, don't be concerned about that. Get medical care if you think you may need it. Be safe.


Medical review by John Claude Krusz, PhD, MD


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Teri Robert, 2006 to present. Last updated February 20, 2011.

Living Well With Migraine Disease & Headaches continues to be a top listed title in bookstores and online booksellers. For a description on the book or an Amazon link, click HERE. To read an excerpt from my book or other content, check our Supplemental Content Section.



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 The American Headache and Migraine Association (AHMA)...

a patient-focused, patient-driven organization for patients with Migraine and
other headache disorders and their family, friends, and care partners.
Anyone interested in the concerns or patients with these disorders is welcome to join.

The AHMA exists to EASE the burden of Migraine and other headache disorders through Education, Awareness, Support, and Engagement.


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NOTE: The information on this site is for education and support only. It is not medical advice and should not be construed as such. Always consult your physician if you have new or different symptoms. Never change your treatment regimen or add herbals, supplements, etc., without consulting your doctor.

All content on this site is physician reviewed by Dr. John Claude Krusz.

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