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Seeking Medical Care for a Migraine or Headache

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When to Seek Medical Care for a Headache or Migraine

Call a doctor if any of the following occur:

  • A change in frequency, severity, or features of the migraine commonly experienced
  • A new, progressive headache that lasts for days
  • A headache brought on by coughing, sneezing, bearing down, straining while on the toilet, and so on
  • Large, unintentional loss of body weight
  • Weakness or paralysis that lasts after the headache

Go to a hospital emergency department if any of the following occur:

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Headache pain along with a stuffy, runny nose and itchy, watery eyes. Sounds like a sinus headache, right? Think again. More than 4 out of 5 people who think they have a sinus headache with symptoms like pain in the head, stuffy nose, and watery eyes actually have migraine headaches. "It's such a widespread misconception," says neurology professor Peter Goadsby, MD, who heads the University of California, San Francisco's headache program. "It's the size of the problem that stuns me." Here's...

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  • Having the worst headache ever, especially if the headache came on very quickly
  • Headache associated with trauma to the head
  • Trauma to the head with loss of consciousness
  • Fever or stiff neck associated with a headache
  • Decreased level of consciousness or confusion
  • Paralysis of one side of the body
  • Seizure

WebMD Medical Reference from eMedicineHealth

Reviewed by Varnada Karriem-Norwood, MD on February 23, 2013
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