Thunderclap Headaches

1 What are Thunderclap Headaches?

Thunderclap headaches are exactly as they seem, always getting one’s attention like a thunder clap. When these headaches are experienced, pain usually rises within 60 seconds and begin fading within a period of 60 minutes. However some of these kind of headaches can last for well over a week. 

Thunderclap headaches are mostly a warning of potentially life-threatening conditions. These conditions can be related to bleeding in and around the brain. Professionals advise one to immediately seek medical attention if they experience a thunderclap headache. 

Thunderclap headaches in some people are also part of a potentially recurring disorder, primarily identified as thunderclap headaches. This kind of diagnosis is only to be made medical processing and elimination of any other possible underlying causes.

2 Symptoms


Thunderclap headaches can be very dramatic episodes. An individual experiencing these headaches may show the following symptoms: 

  • A suddenly striking,
  • severe pain which can sometimes be described as the worst headache one can ever experience. The pain usually peaks within 60 seconds and can last for anywhere between an hour and ten days.

Thunderclap headaches are not centralized to a particular area, they may also involve the neck and lower back. These headaches can also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and loss of consciousness. It is very important to seek immediate medical attention for any headache that come on suddenly and severely.

3 Causes

There are not any obvious physical reasons why thunderclap headaches may cause. In some cases, potentially life-threatening conditions may be responsible. 

Some of these conditions include: 

  • Bleeding between the brain and the membranes covering the brain, this is often due to an abnormal bulge or balloon structure in a blood vessel known as an aneurysm. Another reason is due to a rupture of a blood vessel in the brain, a tear in the lining of an artery (for example the carotid or vertebral artery) that supplies blood to the brain. 
  • Leakage of cerebrospinal fluid, which is usually present due to a tear of the covering around the nerve root in the spine. The presence of a tumor in the third ventricle that blocks the flow of cerebrospinal fluid can also add to the list of possible causes of these headaches. 
  • Some other points that can added to this list include loss of blood supply to or bleeding in the hypophysis (pituitary gland), a blood clot in the brain, severe elevation in blood pressure and an occurrence of an infection such as meningitis or encephala.

4 Making a Diagnosis

Thunderclap headaches are initially diagnosed by any emergency room physician. In certain situations however, one can be immediately referred to  a doctor who specializes in the  the brain and nervous system also known as a neurologist.

It is always advisable to take enough time to prepare for a doctor's appointment.  Here are several tips that can get one ready for such a meeting:  It is always important that one writes down his or her symptoms, this may also include any other symptoms unrelated to the headaches. 

Key information such as major stresses or any recent life changes should not be left out. Making a list of all medication that include all vitamins and  any other supplements taken.  

It is also advised to take a  family member along as this can reduce the probability  of information given by the doctor to be completly forgoten.

5 Treatment

Thunderclap headaches do not have any single treatment because there is a wide range of potential causes for them.

Treatment is aimed at the underlying cause of the headaches, if one is found.

6 Lifestyle and Coping

Lifestyle modifications are necessary in order to cope with thunderclap headaches.

Anyone with thunderclap headaches can find it very useful to talk to other individuals who experience them.

It is highly advised to find any support groups around in order to be educated on how other individuals are coping with the pain and discomfort caused by these headaches.

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