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Top 4 Types of Headaches That Signal a Dangerous Problem

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Ordinary headaches are part of the normal human experience. However, a headache that is severe, persistent or associated with other symptoms such as vomiting and confusion is a warning signal to a dangerous problem.

“Worst Headache of Your Life”

Pain in the head or upper neck is one of common locations of pain in the body and is attributed to many causes. The “worst headache of your life” is a term found in medical textbooks to describe the pain associated with a subarachnoid hemorrhage caused by a ruptured cerebral aneurysm. The headache occurs while the person is lying still and is associated with a stiff neck, difficulty tolerating light in a room, vomiting and confusion. Usually the first headache is a warning sign. The initial subarachnoid hemorrhage is not fatal. If immediate medical attention is sought, the aneurysm can be detected and surgically repaired. If the symptom is ignored, the next bleed can be catastrophic.

Headaches That are Worse in the Morning

A headache that is worse in the morning, improves after the person vomits, gradually improves as the day progresses and worsens with coughing, exercise, bending or kneeling is a common symptom of a brain tumor. This type of headache does not respond to usual headache remedies. However, Casilda Balmaceda, M.D., an Assistant Professor of Neurology at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, states that only about eight percent of all patients with a brain tumor have headache as the first and only symptom. She points out that most brain tumors manifest with other symptoms such as altered mental status and seizures. Metastatic brain tumors are more frequently associated with the symptom of a headache than primary brain tumors. Other symptoms of a brain tumor often mimic other conditions. It is important to seek medical evaluation if you experience this type of headache or other symptoms that are unusual for you.

Severe Headache of Sudden Onset

A headache that occurs suddenly, is severe and appears to have no known cause is a reason for concern.

Add a Comment8 Comments

EmpowHER Guest

My co-worker gets migraine headaches frequently, at least once a month. Yesterday she had one so bad, she had to go home before she said she wouldn't be able to drive home. She said she has migraine medicine from her doctor. I just wonder about this, she is 31.
I wonder if this is dangerous, she has seen a dcotor about this a while ago, but she can't function when she gets these.

May 14, 2015 - 8:48am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

I has a co worker that had the same issue. The doctor had her try all sorts of things including eating different. She went on an all natural fruit vegetable juice cleansing and then incorporated them into a healthy diet and it eliminated that issue.

November 28, 2015 - 12:14pm
EmpowHER Guest

I have been having this horrible constant headaches worse than I have ever felt in my life . Persistant Nausea, vomitting, blurred vision, swelling of glands on back of my head and I haven't been able to sleep.

January 24, 2015 - 10:47am
Maryann Gromisch RN Guide (reply to Anonymous)

Hello Anonymous,

Call and schedule an appointment with your physician. These symptoms should not be overlooked.


January 26, 2015 - 9:37am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Maryann Gromisch RN)

Thank you for the advice. I made an appointment to get checked next week. They have gotten worse and the pain is more severe. So my husband made an appointment for me.

January 26, 2015 - 10:51am
EmpowHER Guest

My daughter is 15 started having daily head pain that never goes away. Three months into it she started cycle vomiting and had to be put on a feeding tube. We sought out a sports doctor as she is an athlete and he said she had suffered a concussion with her atlas out of align. The neurologist acts like I'm a mental patient when I bring it up. She got into hyper baric chamber and it helped her to stop throwing up. We changed her mode of treatment head pain increased and vomiting started back. She is now on a picc line and being feed nutrients that way. Some new meds they put her on made her now have the shakes. Does anyone out there have similar issues. Does this sound like post concussive syndrome to anyone?

November 18, 2012 - 11:31am
EmpowHER Guest
Anonymous (reply to Anonymous)

Hi dear ive been vommiting 3 weeks in a row with top of head headaches i dont know what it is vut i know i need to get it checked out. Whsat do u think it is? It throbes, and feels cold sometimes & just rotates ontop of my head in diffrent places. I cant sleep either sometimes help

May 23, 2016 - 6:59pm
Maryann Gromisch RN Guide

Hello Anonymous,

A persistent headache needs to be evaluated by a physician. It could be as simple as eye strain or something more, like sinusitis. Since you have been having this headache for a month or more, you should consult your doctor.


November 13, 2012 - 6:38pm
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.


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