Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"Why do I wake up with a headache that is only on the left side of my head?"
I am a 24 year old soon to be 25 year old. These symptoms have been happening for the past week now. I have been taking two to three ibuprofen to ease the pain. When I sleep I tend to sleep on my stomach rarely using a pillow but my arms instead. The pain sometimes comes back during the day when the medicine wears off. Should I consult a doctor as soon as possible?
The fact that the symptoms have only been going on for a week is encouraging. However, rarely, severe headache can be a sign of a serious problem, such as a tumor in the brain. Therefore if the headache persists, if you have vision changes, nausea and vomiting, or trouble with balance and coordination then you should see your doctor immediately for evaluation. Aside from serious causes, which are unlikely, one possible cause here would be sinus congestion. If you have nasal stuffiness, runny nose, cough, or cold symptoms this is by far the most likely possibility. Sinus congestion occurs when mucus plugs the sinus allowing buildup of fluid and pressure. It usually responds to decongestants and nasal saline irrigation. Another possibility would be migraine, especially if you have a history of headaches going back over your life. Classic migraine does occur primarily on one side of the head and is typically a pulsing pain (as opposed to sinus pain, which tends to be more steady and aching). Start by making an appointment to see your primary care doctor. They will perform a full physical examination and determine whether or not you have any symptoms that require further workup or treatment.
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