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The Potential Dangers of a Thunderclap Headache

The thunderclap headache, despite its amusing name, can be a very serious problem.  This type of headache is diagnosed when a person experiences the rapid onset of a very severe almost debilitating headache. It will have no apparent cause.  This means that it will not be the obvious result of an injury, poor sleep or dehydration.  The average over the counter pain reliever will have no affect on a thunderclap headache.

The pain will reach its worst within no more than a minute. But the headache itself could last up to a week and a half in a less severe state. The concern is that this type of headache can too often be a sign of something more serious. Some researchers believe that they are a warning that a blood vessel may be about to burst in your head. If you suffer one of these thunderclap headaches it is advisable that you see your health care provide immediately.  Studies have shown that fifty percent of those have had bleeding in the brain did have a thunderclap headache first.

Your doctor should quickly conduct some tests to confirm that there is no medical problem linked to the thunderclap headache. They will likely start with a CT scan. This is a type of x-ray that is computerized and can see the various sections of your brain.  Next could be an MRI, which uses radio waves and a magnetic field to see the structure of the brain.   Depending on what is found there may be further tests that should be carried out, including a cerebral angiogram. That is done to look for the possibility of a cerebral aneurysm. Or a spinal tap may be done to remove spinal fluid and test it for abnormalities in white blood count or proteins.  

The health care provider will be looking for a number of potential dangerous brain issues. These could include a tear in the membrane around the brain and spinal cord that might be allowing the leakage of spinal fluid.  There could also be concerns about several potential bleeding problems on the brain including a ruptured blood vessel, a bulging vessel set to burst, a blood clot or a tear in an artery leading to the brain.  Any of these would be considered potentially dangerous to the health of the patient. If your doctor’s test confirms any of these possibilities then immediate emergency surgery to repair whatever is bleeding is essential. Luckily when caught early a skillful brain surgeon with the right training, dexterity and patience will be able to do what ever is necessary to correct the flaw.

These headaches are more common in women over forty-five. And although these thunderclap headaches can be a warning sign of something dangerous they are just as often not a sign of anything.  There are some medications that can be provided if you have returning thunderclap headaches. They often come in nasal sprays or injectibles so that they will be fast acting to stop the pain quickly.

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