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When to Go to the Emergency Room for a Migraine

You’ve had them before. It’s one of those headaches that just won’t quit, that knocks you to your knees and makes you want to crawl into a fetal position. This one is worse though, and you are beginning to wonder if it’s time to go to the ER. Let’s find out when to go to the emergency room for a migraine.

At Puget Sound Neurology we have a dedicated team of headache specialists who are trained in treating migraines. Don’t suffer from migraine pain any longer, contact our neurology clinic in Tacoma, WA by requesting an appointment online.

The Migraine

According to the American Migraine Foundation, there are 39 million Americans with this disease. Yes, it’s a neurologic disease. Plus, there are 198 billion sufferers worldwide.

A migraine is characterized by severe head pain, throbbing, a pulsating sensation on one side of the head, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, dizziness, and sensitivity to light, noise, and certain smells. Many people have 15 or more per month lasting from a few hours to several days affecting both their personal and professional routine.

Some people get warnings that one is coming, like an aura. This can be a visual disturbance, a tingling on one side of the face, arm, or leg. Flashes of light or blind spots can develop.

The good news is that a migraine won’t kill you. It will hurt and interfere with your life, but you won’t die from it.

When Is a Migraine NOT a Migraine?

Where and when do you draw the line and go to the ER?

The important differential is you are familiar with your own particular symptoms of a migraine. Whereas a migraine has typical warning signals and has a slow buildup, these symptoms should be cause for concern:

  • If you have pain that reaches a peak all at once
  • If you have a new level of pain you have never felt before (“worst headache of your life”) If you are confused
  • If you have trouble speaking, and you’ve never had this before
  • If you have certain vision changes, and you’ve never had this before
  • Neck stiffness
  • Numbness or weakness
  • A fever

If you have pain in a new spot on your head, if the pain is stabbing vs throbbing, if it continues to get worse even after treatment, go to the emergency room or call 911.

Another sign you should go to the ER is evidence of a “thunderclap” headache. This develops in less than one minute and causes severe pain. Any of these symptoms may indicate something much more serious like a stroke, a hemorrhage, meningitis, or a brain tumor.

Other red flags include balance issues, weakness on one side of the body, slurred speech, loss of vision, or pupils that are two different sizes. Don’t hesitate to go to the nearest ER.

Any symptom that is out of the ordinary for you and your typical migraine is cause for concern.

When to Call Our Neurology Clinic

If you are experiencing a typical migraine and one that has lasted three days and is not responding to treatment, it’s best to call one of our neurologists in Tacoma, WA. You may need a combination of treatments our physicians can prescribe without a trip to the hospital and may be able to provide for you in our clinic.

One last piece of advice. If you do go to the emergency room, bring someone with you who can explain what is happening in case you are unable to due to the pain. Contact Puget Sound Neurology at (253) 284-4488 if you’re not sure whether you should go to the emergency room for a migraine. If you wish to schedule a consultation to discuss treatment options for migraines, request an appointment at our neurology clinic in Tacoma, WA.

Request an Appointment Today!

Come be a part of the Puget Sound Neurology family. Request an appointment with one of our board-certified providers today!