I’m a chronic migraine sufferer. I’m one of those people who gets them once or twice every two or three months. I’ve had them since my mid-teens.

I’m not one of those people who say, “Oh, I have such a bad migraine right now,” and continue about their day. I lie in bed for a day or two (or in one memorable instance, a whole week during university), trying to clear the vision in my right eye (I get an aura) and try to make my heart beat quieter because any noise at all makes me throw up.

True story.

Anyway, while that means I have to be a little more careful when it comes to stroke risk, generally my migraines are something I’ve learned to live with and don’t cause me any more concern than “I hope this doesn’t take a week to clear up”.

But there are a few signs and symptoms that my doctor has drilled into me over the years. Things I absolutely have to call her (or get to a hospital) if I experience. And, being the kind and generous person I am, I have decided to pass this info down to you, dear reader. Because I would be sad if something preventable were to happen to you.


The Big Three


The “big three” are the most important get-to-the-hospital quick kind of headaches.

Cluster Headaches


Lots of people get these. They’re pretty common. A cluster headache typically starts behind your eye, then gets worse and worse until it passes. But if you notice your eye turning red or the pain is seriously impacting your ability to function or go about your day – get to a hospital. Cluster headaches are a sign of an aneurysm, and in rare cases, brain tumors – particularly if you get them in the same place and the frequency increases.

Thunderclap Headaches

Thunderclap headaches are sudden, and often violent in onset – we’re talking about a minute after you’ve finished. They happen after you been lifting weights, having sex, jogging, or anything else that gets your blood pumping hard. These can indicate bleeding in your brain, stroke, and more infrequently, an aneurysm and brain tumors.

Headache After Head Injury


Even a gentle bump in the right place can cause a concussion. Sometimes those concussions are serious. These are probably the ones I think about most. These can happen in very simple ways and you don’t always fall unconscious after you receive these sorts of injuries. Even mild concussions can have lasting impacts and should be treated seriously.

Other Signs and Symptoms you should be wary of?


  • Headache with a fever and a stiff neck: a sign of encephalitis.
  • Headaches with pain when you chew/or weight loss along with vision problems: a sign of stroke.
  • Headache when you have a history of cancer
  • Headaches that wake you up at night. Often called “Alarm clock headaches”
  • New or unusual headaches: if your headaches change in pattern, or if you suddenly develop headaches (when you’ve never had them before) typically after 50, that’s a warning sign and you should head to the doctor then.

For other things you should watch out for, click here.

Any comments or concerns? Any articles you want to read? Sound off in the comments below!


Dr. Connie Robinson.

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