Sudden and severe – Thunderclap headache

If you get a thunderclap headache, you won't soon forget it. In 60 seconds or less you've gone from

your normal business to a hair-grabbing, brain-numbing agony. It's obvious how these headaches got their name!


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Thunderclap is basically what I descibed above - a sudden and very severe headache that may go to major pain in 60 seconds. Usually, thunderclap is like migraine, in that it has no other cause (ie no one hit you with a club, and you don't have an aneurysm) and it won't do any permanent damage. Unlike migraine, there may not be much you can do to prevent it.

However, sometimes these headaches are a sign of a serious problem. For example, about ½ of the patients with aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage (when an artery ruptures and bleeds in the brain) have reported thunderclap as one of their major symptoms. Other possible causes include:

unruptured aneurysms, carotid or vertebral artery dissections, pituitary apoplexy, cerebral vasospasm, occipital neuralgia, and Erve virus.

What should I do?

Because of the possible serious causes of thunderclap headache, see your doctor right away. Your doctor will have some tests done to rule out the more serious causes. Remember, most thunderclap headaches are not signs of life-threatening problems.

One of the challenges with fast-acting headaches like this is that normal medications taken orally simply don't work fast enough. Your doctor may prescribe an injection or a nasal spray - something that will stop the pain very quickly. Read what the US based National Headache Foundation says about thunderclap headache... If you've found this information helpful, why not sign up for our free monthly ezine, HeadWay, to keep up to date on the latest headache information?