A Migraine Can Be an Emergency

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

There are times when a Migraine gets to the point where we should seek emergency care. This can be a tricky topic to discuss, but it's important.

Just as we don't want to instill panic when we discuss having Migraine disease increasing the risks of cardiovascular disease and events, this discussion should add to our knowledge, but not cause panic. There is information that we, our families, and others in our lives should know. Knowing when we need to see our doctor or go to the emergency room should be basic information that every Migraineur knows. You can find more information on that in our article When to See a Doctor for a Migraine or Headache.

When a Migraine becomes an emergency:

There are circumstances under which we need to see our doctor or go to the emergency room as soon as possible:

  • When vomiting continues with no relief. This can lead to dehydration.

  • When diarrhea continues with no relief. This too can lead to dehydration.

  • When the Migraine is the "worst ever." Actress Sharon Stone is a Migraineur. A few years ago, she had what she thought was her worst Migraine ever. She called someone to take her to the hospital, but he wasn't home. She drifted in and out of sleep for some time before getting to the hospital. When she got there, it was discovered that she had an aneurysm. If she hadn't reached the hospital when she did, she might well have died. On the Oprah Show, Stone commented, "If you have the worst headache you've ever had, go to the hospital because by the time you get to the hospital, you're as far gone as you wanna be."


  • When the Migraine continues too long. When the pain of a Migraine attack continues for more than 72 hours without a solid, pain-free break of at least four hours, while awake, it's termed status Migrainous. There is some disagreement about this within the medical community. Some doctors say this increases risk of stroke and should be treated aggressively and immediately. Others say steps should be taken to "break" the Migraine, but that it doesn't increase stroke risk.

    Given the disagreement on this issue, as well as the experience of someone I knew, it's my opinion that the saying, "better safe than sorry," applies here. Statistically, strokes caused by Migraine attacks aren't very common, but who wants to be on the wrong end of those statistics?

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