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Is My Headache a Brain Aneurysm?

by | Oct 30, 2023

Recognizing the difference between potentially dangerous headaches and common ones is important in ensuring the well-being of yourself or a loved one. A brain aneurysm headache, for instance, isn’t your typical headache. It’s an abrupt and intense pain resulting from the rupture or leakage of a blood vessel in the brain. Learn the serious headaches that may require medical attention.

Athletic sporty man doing head exercises

Dangerous Headaches

You might be wondering about the duration and sensation of your headache and having worrying thoughts such as “This is the worst headache of my life.” or “Do I have a brain aneurysm?”. Headaches are unavoidable in everyone’s life, but aneurysms and migraines represent some of the most severe variations. Unfortunately, people can mistake an aneurysm for a migraine headache and vice versa, delaying care and possibly leading to significant complications.

What are the similarities and differences between migraines and brain aneurysms? Our article, “Migraine vs. Brain Aneurysm” explains the common symptoms and how to differentiate between these two conditions that have confused patients and to help them make more informed health choices.

Brain aneurysms can be silent walking time bombs, lurking within the brain, and can unleash a sudden and severe headache like no other. These headaches, caused by the rupture or leakage of a blood vessel, are a dire warning. They strike with an intensity and speed that sets them apart from common headaches. Often described as “the worst headache of my life,” they are a medical emergency. Learn more about the most dangerous and ruptured brain aneurysm headaches. 

Thunderclap Headaches

A thunderclap headache (TCH) is a severe headache that starts suddenly and peaks within one minute and can last for a minimum of five minutes. It is often likened to a “clap of thunder” owing to its explosive and unexpected onset. Thunderclap headache is not usually associated with the rupture of a brain aneurysm but could be related to other conditions that require emergency medical attention.

  • Thunderclap headaches can be a symptom of various underlying medical conditions, including brain aneurysms, migraines, and other vascular issues.
  • They require prompt medical evaluation and attention to determine the underlying cause and initiate appropriate treatment.
  • In some cases, thunderclap headaches may be a sign of a life-threatening condition, such as a subarachnoid hemorrhage, which is bleeding in the space surrounding the brain.
  • Diagnostic tests like CT scans, MRIs, and lumbar punctures are often used to identify the cause of thunderclap headaches.
  • Treatment depends on the underlying condition and may include medications, surgery, or other interventions to address the specific cause of the headache.
  • Ignoring or delaying treatment for thunderclap headaches can have serious and potentially life-threatening consequences.

Sentinel Headaches

Sentinel headache (SH) is a warning sign of a preceding rupture of an aneurysm. Experts reveal 15 to 60% of patients with brain aneurysm experience symptoms of sentinel headaches just before the rupture. Sentinel headache symptoms are described as sudden intense, persistent headaches displaying features different from any usual previous headaches a person has experienced. SH is worse than a common headache but less severe than a thunderclap headache. Not all aneurysm ruptures are accompanied by a sentinel headache but they can be signals in diagnosing someone with an aneurysm rupture.

  • These headaches may be recurrent or persistent, occurring over a period of days or weeks before the more severe event.
  • While sentinel headaches are typically less intense, they can still be uncomfortable and are not to be ignored.
  • They are commonly associated with conditions like an unruptured aneurysm, where the aneurysm hasn’t yet burst.
  • If someone experiences a sentinel headache, it should be taken seriously as it can be a red flag for a potentially life-threatening situation.
  • Medical evaluation is crucial to determine the underlying cause and assess the risk of a more severe event, such as an aneurysm rupture.
  • Diagnostic tests like imaging studies (CT scans, MRIs, angiograms) are often used to investigate the source of sentinel headaches.
  • Treatment will depend on the identified cause and may involve monitoring, medication, or surgical intervention to prevent a more severe event.
  • Recognizing and addressing sentinel headaches can help prevent serious complications and potentially life-saving intervention if an aneurysm is detected.

Types of Brain Aneurysm Headaches

Learn the types of brain aneurysm headaches, including their symptoms and severity. Our brain aneurysm specialist, Dr. Manish Taneja, looks into the difference between aneurysm headaches and migraines.

Ruptured Brain Aneurysm Headache

A ruptured aneurysm is one of the most severe medical emergencies and the above mentioned headaches are signs that you or your loved one should go for a brain aneurysm screening. 

To summarize, a “sentinel headache” is a sudden and severe headache that happens and described as “warning leaks” by doctors because they can precede a full rupture. It is important to seek immediate medical attention if experiencing a sentinel headache to assess and manage the underlying aneurysm. It is when the brain aneurysm ruptures fully, people who have had “thunderclap headaches” describe it as the most painful headache of their lives. Large volumes of blood leak into the brain bringing on an extremely severe headache. A large ruptured brain aneurysm headache is extremely severe lasting for at least one minute until successful treatment.

A ruptured brain aneurysm is a medical emergency. Call 9-9-5 immediately and request an ambulance if a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a brain aneurysm.

To assess and diagnose a possible brain aneurysm in Singapore, Dr. Manish Taneja conducts a CT scan (computed tomography) or an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) to obtain detailed images of your brain’s blood vessels and structures. Learn more in detail about brain aneurysm screening and diagnosis in our other article “Brain Aneurysm MRI and CT Scans”.

Common Types of Headache

Headache is a very common condition that affects virtually everyone. Some individuals have more debilitating headaches than the others severely affecting their quality of life.

Two Common Types of Headaches

The two commonest type of headaches seen in clinical practice are migraine and tension headache. There are other causes of headache that may be caused by underlying structural issues in the brain or by other physiological issues affecting the structures of the brain.

There are several categories of primary headaches and secondary headaches. Read more in our blog post that explores “Headache Types, Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment”

Headache Assessment

Assessment of headache involves a detailed clinical assessment including history and physical examination. This is followed by imaging scan such as MRI/MRA which in most cases is done to exclude any structural cause of headache. MRI scan does not involve any radiation or contrast injection with no side effects and high degree of accuracy.

Most patients presenting with headache are managed medically with excellent response to treatment. There are various over the counter and prescription based medication available both for treating acute episodes of headache as well as to prevent episodes of severe headache. Newer injection based treatments given to prevent headache on a monthly or 3-4 monthly basis have added another dimension to treat patients effectively.

Did you know that there are over 150 types of headaches? The most common include tension headaches, migraines, and cluster headaches. Headaches can also sometimes result from underlying medical conditions like strokesbrain aneurysms, or infections. Learn when it is time to worry about a headache, the different certain types, and the warning signs of each in our article.

Seek Medical Assistance at the Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic

Headaches are an unfortunate part of our lives that we can’t escape and may be a precursor to a ruptured brain aneurysm. While most pains are mild to moderate in severity and can be tackled with over-the-counter medications, others are life-threatening. Understanding how to differentiate between dangerous and common headaches is the first step to getting the ideal treatment you require. We provide brain aneurysm care and treatments at our specialized brain aneurysm clinic at Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic in Singapore. Find answers to commonly asked brain aneurysm and stroke questions from our patients with Dr. Manish Taneja.

Consult a Seasoned Brain Aneurysm Specialist

If you or a loved one is experiencing symptoms of a brain aneurysm, seek immediate medical assistance from the Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic. Our brain aneurysm clinic and specialist based in Singapore, Dr. Manish Taneja provides  comprehensive management of complex multisystem surgical and medical conditions. Contact us today to fill in and submit contact information and inquiry details.

Dr. Manish, a certified neurointervention specialist, has extensive experience treating headaches and brain aneurysms. He can provide expert guidance regarding treatment options considering your specific headache. Come in for a further evaluation.

Middle aged women giving a call on her phone.

Brain Aneurysm Resources

Discover brain aneurysm resources that go beyond the basics designed for patients. Understand the meaning of  a brain aneurysm condition, the causes, symptoms, signs, and more. Connect with your brain health.

Put Brain Aneurysm on Your Health Radar

Did you experience the worst headache of your life? Could it be a brain aneurysm that ruptures, which means bleeding in the brain? Thoughts could be racing through your mind. Then what is the difference between unruptured (a weak or thin spot on an artery in the brain that balloons) or ruptured brain aneurysm? If you’re wondering, then the Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic is here to help. It’s important to look out for the tell-tale brain aneurysm symptoms, signs, causes, and risk factors.

Dr. Manish Taneja has been performing brain aneurysm treatments since 1995 from surgical clipping to latest minimally invasive procedures. Each patient is unique as is the size and location of the aneurysm. Your brain has different conditions to treat the aneurysm and artery vessel walls of a blood vessel in the brain. This calls for personalised brain aneurysm treatment depending on your symptoms, family, history, medication, and more. A simple CT scan could be just what the doctor ordered and the first step in early detection and prevention of a brain aneurysm. Come in for an easy consultation with our brain aneurysm specialist in Singapore to be on your health radar.

Other Health Conditions

The Supreme Vascular and Interventional Clinic is your “go-to” facility for various conditions and treatments. To arrange an appointment with Dr. Manish Taneja, our neurointervention specialist, contact us. You can also call us at (+65) 6904 8084 for a consultation.