dreamstime_xs_25862486Everybody gets headaches from time to time and the cause is usually very minor: a hard day at work, or slight dehydration due to drinking or exercise. Typically, you can take some over-the-counter pain medication, drink some water, and get a good night’s rest without worrying about it.

But sometimes a headache can be a sign of a serious illness and needs to be brought up with a doctor. Here are a few signs you might need to talk to your doctor or dentist about your headache.

Headaches in the Morning

If you wake up with headaches, you may be suffering from sleep apnea. Sleep apnea is a potentially life-threatening condition in which your breathing stops momentarily at night. It can contribute to mental illness, heart conditions, and increased accident risk. Talk to your doctor or a sleep dentist about scheduling a sleep test to determine whether you suffer from sleep apnea.

Headaches Don’t Respond to Medication

Transient (usually tension) headaches from routine causes will typically respond to the recommended dose of over-the-counter pain medication. If your headache doesn’t get better after a dose of pain medication, something more serious may be going on. Don’t forget that this includes headaches that recur so frequently you are in danger of violating the long-term dosage limitations on the medication (check the label for more information).

Headaches Get Worse or Change Type

If you start having headaches with more severe pain, you should talk to your doctor. You may have a worsening condition. You should also see a doctor if the pain switches to a different part of your head or changes in character, such as a throbbing pain that becomes a sharp piercing pain.

Headaches That Come with Other Symptoms

If you get other symptoms along with your headache, such as fever, severe nausea, or vomiting, you should see a doctor. The combination of symptoms may mean you are suffering from a more serious condition, such as an aneurism or infection. It may also mean that you are suffering from migraines, which can be debilitating.

Headaches and TMJ

Chronic tension headaches and migraines that don’t seem to respond to expected triggers may be due to temporomandibular joint disorder (TMJ). If you visit your doctor and don’t get any good answers about the causes for your headaches, or if you fear you are using too many pain medications to control your headaches, you should be evaluated for TMJ.

To learn whether TMJ might be the cause for your headaches, please contact the TMJ Therapy & Sleep Center in Denver, Colorado today to schedule an appointment.