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Migraine Headaches - When to Call a Doctor

Call911or other emergency services if:

  • You have a sudden, severe headache that is different from past headaches.
  • You have symptoms of a stroke, such as:
    • Sudden numbness, tingling, weakness, or loss of movement in your face, arm, or leg, especially on only one side of your body.
    • Sudden vision changes.
    • Sudden trouble speaking.
    • Sudden confusion or trouble understanding simple statements.
    • Sudden problems with walking or balance.

Call your doctor now or go to the emergency room if:

Recommended Related to Migraines/Headaches

Understanding Headache Treatment

Headache treatment depends largely on determining the cause of the headache. Tension headaches can usually be treated by the use of over-the counter pain relievers such as Tylenol, Motrin, or even aspirin. When tension or stress is the cause, nondrug options may include massage to relieve muscle tension, yoga and other forms of exercise, and working less when possible.  The treatment of migraine headaches is somewhat more involved and may involve a number of different approaches to the pain. (Please...

Read the Understanding Headache Treatment article > >

  • You have a fever and a stiff neck.
  • You have new nausea and vomiting, or you cannot keep food or liquids down.

Watch closely for changes in your health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your headache does not get better within 24 hours.
  • Your headache wakes you up at night.
  • Your headaches get worse or happen more often.
  • You develop new symptoms.
  • You have any problems with your medicine, or your medicine isn't helping your headaches.
  • You have new, different, or more frequent headaches.
  • Your headaches occur after physical exercise, sexual activity, coughing, or sneezing.
  • Your life is disrupted by your headaches (for example, you often miss work or school).

Watchful waiting

Watchful waiting is a period of time during which you and your doctor watch your symptoms or condition without using medical treatment. Watchful waiting may be fine if you have recently been diagnosed with migraines and over-the-counter medicines are controlling your pain.

Who to see

Health professionals who may diagnose and treat your migraines include the following:

If you think your headaches might be linked to depression or anxiety, talk to your doctor.

To prepare for your appointment, see the topic Making the Most of Your Appointment.

    This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

    WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

    Last Updated: March 12, 2014
    This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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