Acute headaches can become so unbearable that you cannot realize your normal daily activities. Three Most Common Types, Causes, Types & When to Visit the ER.
What Are Acute Headaches?
Acute headaches account for approximately 8% of emergency room visits. An acute headache is defined as a pain or discomfort in the head and neck areas that starts suddenly and gets worse quickly.
Headaches are caused by irritation of the surrounding brain tissues which include the cranium, muscles, nerves, veins, arteries, eyes, ears, sinuses, and mucous membranes.
What are the Most Common Types of Acute Headaches?
There are many factors that could result in Acute Headaches, most pain is caused by:
- Tension Headaches: The onset of a tension headache usually occurs in the late afternoon and can last a few hours, in most cases, it should dissipate by evening. The pain associated with a tension headache is mild to moderate, and it usually manifests across the forehead or in the back of the head. These headaches can occur daily, and patients may experience sensitivity to light and sounds.
- Migraine Headaches: They can occur at any time, in some patient’s migraine headaches can be associated with food sensitivities and hormonal changes. The pain associated with this type of a headache is moderate to severe, often debilitating. Migraines cause a throbbing pain in the temple region, back of the head or behind the eyes usually on only one side of the head. Patients may experience nausea and vomiting, as well as sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can last for up to 3 days.
- Cluster Headaches: Pain often manifests on one side of the head usually around one eye and is cataloged as severe pain which can last as little as 30 minutes up to 2 hours. Cluster headaches can occur several times in a 24-hour period most often at night. Patients commonly experience eyelid drooping and a runny nose during a cluster headache.
What Causes Acute Headaches?
Acute headaches are common, and they can be associated with a variety of underlying health conditions, to determine the exact cause of an acute headache in a patient a series of exams must be conducted. In general terms acute headaches are associated with:
- Muscle or Joint Irritation
- Fatigue, and Lack of Sleep
- Changes in Hormone Levels
- Food Sensitivities
- Certain Medical Conditions
How Are Acute Headaches Diagnosed?
Patients who arrive at any of our centers complaining about acute headaches will be asked to describe and rate their pain. Patients should disclose the frequency and duration of the headaches, as well as describe any symptoms that may accompany a headache such as blurred vision, nausea, vomiting, and dizziness.
Some headache conditions can be diagnosed from the patient’s medical history, others may require more detailed examination and emergency physicians may order a CT Scan to further assess the condition and properly diagnose the cause and subsequent treatment.
The treatment for Acute Headaches greatly depends on the cause of the pain. Treatments can include
How Are Acute Headaches Treated in The Emergency Room?
There are a variety of treatment options for patients suffering from an acute headache, the treatment will depend on the cause, frequency, and severity of the headaches, and may include:
- Anti-Inflammatory Pain Medications
- Muscle Relaxants
- Cold Compresses on the Head and Neck
- Relaxation in a Quiet Darken Room
When to Go to the Emergency Room
You should seek immediate emergency medical attention when:
- The pain experienced is severe
- You have numbness or weakness on one side of your body or face
- Your headache started after a blow to the head
- You have a headache, and have difficulty speaking, are confused or forgetful
- Your headache is accompanied by fever and a stiff neck