She tried over-the-counter painkillers with no relief. And no wonder: When she finally went to an urgent-care center, a CAT scan revealed swelling in her brain and an MRI showed a brain tumor pressing against the top of her skull.
A severe headache should never be ignored, says Alan Carver, MD, assistant professor of neurology and director of headache and pain management at Mt. Sinai School of Medicine in New York City.
“It can be a warning sign of something more ominous: a brain tumor, stroke, or aneurysm.” Patients worry about stirring up drama for nothing, but it’s not worth taking chances. “You don’t have to apologize,” Carver says. “Headaches aren’t always just headaches.”
Call 911 if …
- You feel like it’s the worst headache you’ve ever had in your life.
- The headache is accompanied by a loss of vision, seeing double, weakness or numbness in your body, difficulty speaking or hearing, or trouble with balance or walking.
- You’re afraid you may pass out.