Thunderclap headaches live up to their name, grabbing your attention like a clap of thunder. The pain of these sudden, severe headaches peaks within 60 seconds and can start fading after an hour. Some thunderclap headaches, however, can last for more than a week.
Thunderclap headaches are often a warning sign of potentially life-threatening conditions, usually linked to bleeding in and around the brain. That's why it's so important to seek emergency medical attention if you experience a thunderclap headache.
Some people may also experience thunderclap headaches as part of a potentially recurring headache disorder, known as primary thunderclap headache. But this diagnosis should only be made after a thorough medical evaluation and elimination of other possible underlying causes.
Mar. 25, 2015
- Olesen J, et al. The international classification of headache disorders. International Headache Society. http://ihs-classification.org/en/02_klassifikation/02_teil1/04.06.00_other.html. Accessed Feb. 17, 2015.
- Approach to the patient with headache. The Merck Manual Professional Edition. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic_disorders/headache/approach_to_the_patient_with_headache.html. Accessed Feb. 17, 2015.
- Longo DL, et al. Headache. In: Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies; 2012. http://accessmedicine.com. Accessed Feb. 17, 2015.
- Headache: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/detail_headache.htm. Accessed Feb. 17, 2015.
- DuPont SA, et al. Thunderclap headache and normal computed tomographic results: Value of cerebrospinal fluid analysis. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2008;83:1326.
- Savitz SI, et al. Thunderclap headache with normal CT and lumbar puncture: Further investigations are unnecessary: For. Stroke. 2008;39:1392.
- Tarshish S, et al. Teaching case presentation: Primary thunderclap headache. Headache. 2009;49:1249.
- Mistry N, et al. Thunderclap headache. Practical Neurology. 2009;9:294.
- Neurological diagnostic tests and procedures. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/misc/diagnostic_tests.htm. Accessed Feb. 18, 2015.
- Headache Classification Subcommittee of the International Headache Society. The international classification of headache disorders: 2nd ed. Cephalalgia. 2004;24(suppl):9.
- Schwedt T, et al. Thunderclap headache. http://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed Feb. 17, 2015.
You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic
Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.