Like nearly all conditions that revolve around pain, headaches can be tricky to categorize. A headache one person would call "terrible" might feel mild to someone else.
But speaking generally, you need to see your primary care physician if your headache status changes, says Mark Morocco, MD, a clinical professor and ER doc at the University of California, Los Angeles Medical Center. That means if you never had headaches, but now you seem to have them all the time, your doctor should know about that change, Morocco says. Or if the intensity of your regular migraines has suddenly ratcheted up, that's also something worthy of your doctor's attention.
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Even in those situations, chances are good your headaches are not of the life-threatening variety. "People are always worried about brain tumors," Morocco says. But headaches are actually not among the symptoms experts usually associate with a tumor (here are the actual warning signs of a brain tumor).
On the other hand, there are some warning signs that your headache is a true medical emergency. Here's what to watch out for: