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"Why do I wake up with a headache in the middle of the night?"


I am a 23 year old woman and I have had headaches and migraines on and off every week for most of my life. I have just recently been waking up in the middle of the night with a headache. I don't smoke, drink, do drugs or take any medications. I am not married and do not have children. My headaches are usually moderate but my migraines are severe. I'm not sure what the cause of me waking up is, but when I do, my head is throbbing. Can you please tell me why?


Headaches are a fairly common complaint. There are many causes, and teasing apart the exact cause is often difficult. Determining the exact cause is often difficult, and would require a full history and physical exam.

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I would strongly recommend that you see your primary care doctor. In addition, a brain specialist (a neurologist) could be of help to assist you in this. To begin, there are dangerous causes of headaches (like brain bleeds or brain tumors) and then there are less dangerous (like tension headaches or migraines). The first step in evaluation is to determine if it is a dangerous cause. Unfortunately, headaches that wake you up at night or early morning headaches are a sign of a dangerous cause. While not 100% accurate, we often think of nighttime headaches as more associated with a mass in the brain. Many doctors will recommend a complete neurological physical exam and possibly a CAT scan of the head for this type of headache. I would strongly recommend you discuss this with your doctor. While this is a very rare cause, you may need to have this ruled out. The far more common cause of headaches are tension headaches (caused by the muscles around the head) or migraines. Your doctor can diagnose these. Talk to your doctor.

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