When to Go to the ER for a Migraine

When to Go to the ER

Oct 11, 2023


If you’ve ever wondered when to go to the ER for a migraine, odds are that you experience painful migraines often in the form of chronic migraines or you know someone who does. The thing about migraines is that when you have one, you want relief now. There’s nothing worse than when the painkillers and prescription migraine medications don’t do their job and you find yourself just “waiting it out” while in (oftentimes) excruciating pain.

Although headaches are a common occurrence for many people, migraines can be dangerous in certain situations and warrant medical attention. Make sure you know the difference between a painful headache and a serious migraine so that you know when help is necessary. The medical professionals at Complete Care are here to let you know when to go to the ER for a migraine.

When is a migraine dangerous?

Can migraines send you to the ER? Yes, if it meets one of the following criteria: your migraine is accompanied by other troubling symptoms, your migraine/symptoms are more severe than usual, your migraine is lasting longer than usual, and/or your symptoms are setting in faster than usual.

Having a migraine does not instantly put you in a dangerous situation, but there are certain symptoms and circumstances that point to a potential emergency. If you suffer from migraines often, keep these in mind so that you can better judge when to go to the ER for a migraine.

Your migraine is accompanied by other symptoms

When should I go to the ER over a migraine? If the following symptoms are present with your migraine, it may be wise to seek medical help.

  • High fever (Keep reading: When to go to the ER for a fever)
  • Stiff or weak muscles in the neck, arms, face, or legs
  • Double vision or vision loss
  • Difficulty speaking clearly 
  • Loss of balance 
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Seizures 

These symptoms are a sign that something more serious may be happening to you outside of your average migraine. Head to your nearest emergency room for help.

Your symptoms are more intense than usual

Chronic migraine sufferers can typically tell when a migraine is coming on and how they feel. Most people feel a throbbing pain on one side of their head with sensitivity to light and sound accompanied by nausea. However, you know your body best. If your symptoms feel exacerbated and more intense than ever before, you could be experiencing something more serious. For example:

We know that the above-mentioned situations sound incredibly scary and that’s because they are. Painful migraines are something that should never be ignored. It’s better to spring into action, head to the ER, and find out that your migraine is minor rather than having a serious condition go untreated. When in doubt, go to the emergency room. 

Your migraine is lasting longer than usual

Most migraines typically last anywhere from four hours to three days, but how long is too long for a migraine? A headache of this magnitude that lasts more than 72 hours without at least four hours of relief is thought by many in the medical community to be a medical emergency. If not treated quickly and aggressively, you could be putting yourself at risk of having a stroke. 

Your symptoms come on faster than usual

Migraine symptoms typically start off small and gradually get more painful over time. If all of a sudden you feel like you’ve been hit with a terrible headache out of nowhere, this is a cause for concern as it could not be a migraine at all and may be a sign of a stroke. Head to the emergency room immediately to be examined.  

What will the ER do for a migraine?

When you arrive at the emergency room, the medical staff will examine you thoroughly and get more details involving your symptoms and history of migraines. They may order a CT scan to get a better look at your brain and see what could be causing your pain or other symptoms. 

Once they have an idea of what is causing your painful migraines, they can prescribe specific drugs or medications to help ease your pain or recommend certain procedures in more severe cases. Try your best to rest for the next few days so as to not aggravate your symptoms and cause further pain. It would also be wise to make a follow-up appointment with a specialist to ensure that you are recovering properly. 

Get migraine relief fast with Complete Care

Knowing when to go to the ER for a migraine can potentially save you from life-threatening emergencies such as stroke or seizures. Whether you’re dealing with intense stomach pain or severe throbbing, it’s always safer to seek medical help than to wait out the pain in hopes that it will subside when it might not. Migraines can be serious if not dealt with properly, so head to an emergency room that you trust.

Complete Care is a line of fully-equipped emergency room facilities with advanced digital imaging services to help better diagnose and treat migraine-related conditions. We know that when a migraine strikes, you need relief fast. With low wait times, you can visit Complete Care knowing that you will be seen and treated as quickly as possible. 

We have multiple 24/7 ER locations in Texas (Austin, Corpus Christi, Dallas/Fort Worth, East Texas, Lubbock, and San Antonio) and in Colorado Springs. Come and see us when you need help. We’ll be here!

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