Should You Go to the ER for a Headache?

Headaches are often minor health concerns, although they certainly can be bothersome. However, it is possible for a headache to indicate a serious or life-threatening medical problem. Secondary headaches are those that are caused by underlying issues, unlike primary headaches such as tension-type and migraine headaches. It isn’t always easy to determine when a headache might require a trip to the Emergency Room at Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center of Thousand Oaks. If you’re ever in doubt about the severity of your medical issue, you can always call your doctor for advice.

Giant Cell Arteritis

One possible cause of headaches that requires treatment at the emergency room is giant cell arteritis, also known as temporal arteritis. This refers to the inflammation of the lining of the arteries, particularly those found in the head. This condition can cause headaches, jaw pain, and vision loss. Blindness and stroke may occur unless treatment is sought.


Patients who have survived stroke may report experiencing the worst headache they’ve ever had when the stroke developed. In addition to headache, stroke commonly causes slurred speech, confusion, vision loss, and weakness or numbness on one side of the body. The onset of stroke symptoms is rapid. If you think you could be suffering a stroke, you shouldn’t try to drive yourself to the emergency room. Instead, call 911 immediately.


Meningitis is a life-threatening disease characterized by the inflammation of the meninges, which surround the brain and spinal cord. Most patients with meningitis contract the disease because of a virus; however, meningitis may also be bacterial or fungal in nature. Along with a headache, meningitis can cause a sudden, high fever , stiff neck, seizures, nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. If left untreated, meningitis can lead to permanent hearing loss, brain damage, learning disabilities, kidney failure, and death.

Families throughout the Thousand Oaks area can rely on Los Robles Hospital and Medical Center to provide rapid evaluation and treatment of serious medical conditions. Our Emergency Room staff is committed to keeping our average ER wait times below 15 minutes. Call 911 immediately if you have a medical emergency; otherwise, call our Consult-A-Nurse line at (877) 888-5746 or browse our website for more information about the capabilities of our Emergency Room.