When is a headache a sign of something serious?

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Occasional headaches are usually not a cause for concern. You’re on an over-the-counter pain reliever and you’re good to go.

However, sometimes a headache can indicate something more serious, especially at a certain age. “As we age, we become more concerned that something else is going on that is causing the headache,” said Deborah Carver, MD, neurologist and certified headache specialist at UT Health San Antonio.

It’s uncommon for someone to develop migraines or tension headaches after age 50, so any new headache should be evaluated by a doctor, Carver says. You should also see a doctor if you’ve always had a headache but your headache pattern changes.

“If you used to have a headache once a month, but now you have a headache every day, that’s worrying,” says Carver differently, or when what is causing your headache changes. “

Common triggers are lack of sleep, stress, dehydration, or a reaction to alcohol. Here are some warning signs that doctors say should get you checked for your headache right away.