Diagnosing: Sudden Sharp Pain in Head

Every once in a while we look at specific symptoms and possible diagnoses. Today, that sudden, sharp pain in head will be our focus.

Sudden sharp pain in headSudden, sharp pain sometimes has a direct trigger or cause. For example, if you go out in cold weather, or even dive into cold water, you may end up with a stabbing headache. Normally these don’t last long.

Headaches during airplane travel may also have a sudden, stabbing quality.

Sudden sharp pain in the head may also be caused by an actual disease or organic dysfunction. It’s important to see a doctor if this is a kind of headache you haven’t experienced before.

Some people experience headaches that feel like sudden stabs, or several sudden stabs, lasting for only a few seconds. The location of the stabbing changes. This is called primary stabbing headache.

This type of headache is difficult to treat, because it’s so brief. However, if it’s a constant problem, medication such as indomethacin may be prescribed.

If the pain tends to always be in the same place, and you also have migraine pain that tends to be in the same place, they may be related. Or, it could be a sign of a problem with the nerves in that location.

But there are other headaches that may cause this type of pain. Pain from trigeminal neuralgia is often described as being like “an electric shock”, and may be triggered by a touch to the face. There are also other types of neuralgia (neuralgia refers to pain along the path of a nerve, and may have various causes. See this article: nerve pain in head).

As you might guess by now, the location of the pain is very important for getting a proper diagnosis and treatment. If you experience sudden sharp pain in the head, take note – where was it? Is it always in the same place?

If the pain is sudden, but lasts a few minutes instead of a few seconds, the diagnosis will also be different. SUNCT is an example of this type of headache.

There are various medication that can be used for these types of headaches, but it very much depends on frequency and diagnosis. If this headache is new to you, do see a doctor right away to rule out the most urgent concerns that need to be treated immediately.

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