ZocdocAnswers The sides of my head just randomly started to hurt when I woke up the other day. Is this bad?

Question

The sides of my head just randomly started to hurt when I woke up the other day. Is this bad?

It's been going on for about a day now. I'm not sure what is causing this or why.

Answer

I am sorry to hear that you are experiencing a headache. There are many, many different types of headaches. Some of them are serious, while others are benign and are not cause for concern. Sorting out which headaches are worrisome relies heavily on a good description of the type of pain you are experiencing. Therefore, I encourage you to visit your primary care doctor who can better determine if this particular headache is concerning and requires further work up. Sudden, sharp, unbearable pain that develops within seconds (thunderclap headache) is very concerning for a bleed in the brain known as subarachnoid hemorrhage. Patients with this type of headache will need to go to the emergency room and obtain a CT scan of the head for diagnosis. Headache which feels like tenderness or pain of the scalp or temples can be due to a condition known as temporal arteritis. This usually occurs in older patients over 50 and can be accompanied by fever and jaw pain. These patients are at risk of developing blindness if not treated quickly. Headache on the sides of the head could simply be a tension headache. Tension headaches cause pain in a band-like pattern around the head. These usually go away with pain medication and are non life threatening. Migraines can also similarly cause headaches, but may also be associated with symptoms such as sensitivity to light, nausea, vomiting. Those who suffer from frequent daily migraines may require medications to prevent the headaches from recurring. These are only a few of the many possibilities for sources of headache. Talk with your doctor who can better determine which cause best fits your symptoms.

This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.

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