Sharp head pain 3 days ago, vertigo, tinnitus?

Health Professional

Full Question:

Three days ago, I woke up with a very sharp pain in the lower right side of my head. I had migraines before so I know this is not a migraine. The pain is no longer that sharp but I can not seem to move my head and if I need to pick up something it really hurts. I have Tinnitus on the right ear, but I do not know if that has anything to do with it. I do not suffer of sinus. An odd thing is, that for a month now I had vertigo, but I stopped taking a diuretic and the vertigo stopped. I must say that I had vertigo for many years (very violent) but I stopped having it for over a year in a half. it just came back for over a month but went away. I would like to know if the vertigo has anything to do with it. I've been taking Tylenol for the pain but after a few hours I need it again. I've also been swimming for about a week now, could that be the cause? I know, I will see my doctor on Tuesday but I just wanted to know if any of the above mentioned had to do with it. I must say that the pain is not on the neck but on the head. Thank you for any info you might be able to provide. Alicia.

Full Answer:

Dear Alicia;

It's good that you're seeing your doctor, but we do need to tell you that when you have new, unexplained head pain, it's important to see your doctor as soon as possible. If you didn't call your doctor the first day you had this pain, please know that if you have anything like this happen in the future, you need to call immediately.

As you obviously understand from the way you worded your question, we can't attempt a diagnosis of your symptoms, but we can offer you this information:

  • Tinnitus and vertigo can be migraine symptoms, but the pain you describe doesn't fit migraine.
  • Swimming could contribute to vertigo if water is getting into your ears. Vertigo can be a symptom of something else or occur independently of other conditions. It's often connected to vestibular issues, thus our comment on water in your ears.
  • Taking Tylenol, acute migraine medications, or any pain reliever - either prescription or over-the-counter - more than two or three days a week can cause medication overuse headache MOH. For more information on this, please see _Medication Overuse Headache - When the Remedy Backfires _. We can't say if this is applicable in your case, but it's something of which you should be aware and can discuss with your doctor.

Your question about whether the vertigo has anything to do with the head pain is one we can't answer because it simply can't be answered without reviewing your medical records and examining you in person.

There are many things that could be the source of your head pain - some of them relatively harmless, others potentially pretty harmful. Your doctor may well need to order an imaging study to rule out issues such as stroke and aneurysm. The American Headache Society recommends that CT scans not be performed when MRI is available, so if your doctor orders a CT scan, you may want to ask him about ordering an MRI instead. You can find more on this in 5 Things Migraine and Headache Patients and Doctors Should Question.

Alicia, we hope that this information is helpful to you and that things go well for you.

Thanks for your question,
John Claude Krusz and Teri Robert


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