​Most of the time, headaches and migraines are not harmful, and can be treated successfully with rest, painkillers and lifestyle changes to avoid triggers. However, additional medication is sometimes needed to reduce headache attacks, and further investigations may be needed to check if they are a symptom of another condition.


It is advisable to see your family doctor if your headaches:

  • Happen frequently; e.g. at least once a week.
  • Affect your normal daily activities or productivity, such as being unable to work or look after your family.
  • Become more frequent or change; for example, more intense or different kind of pain compared to usual headache attacks.
  • If you are over 50 years old and start having headaches. 

Headaches can also be a symptom of other serious underlying conditions such as a brain tumour, infections of the central nervous system and increased pressure or bleeding in the brain. Seek medical attention as soon as possible if you have any of the following symptoms with a headache:

  • Fever and chills
  • Weakness or numbness in the hands, arms or legs
  • Speech or swallowing difficulties
  • Sudden onset of intense pain – known as a ‘thunderclap headache’
  • Headache changes with intensity when the person changes position; e.g. lying down then sitting upright
  • Blurry vision or pulsing ringing sound in the ears

This article was published in the National Neuroscience Institute's NeusLink magazine, which covers articles about NNI updates and brain, spine, muscle and nerve conditions in English and Chinese - to read more articles click here!

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