Do You Know Why Your Head Hurts?
Nothing is more frightening than sudden, unexplainable pain in your head. Recently, an Oregon woman experienced just that, and after hours of tests and questions, knew 'little' more than when she walked into the E.R. This is her story: Said woman (we'll call her Fay) was shopping with her son. Without warning, there was a flash of light in her right eye, and within five minutes it had moved around and taken over the entire right half of her field of vision. Fay was accustomed to migraines, and at first assumed that the vision trouble was simply due to a very bad headache, although at the time her head did not really hurt. As her vision continued to cloud, Fay rushed home and started searching online. It was at this point that she began having cognitive difficulties. Her reading comprehension plummeted, and she wasn't able to form correct speech. Fay immediately called her husband, mother, and mother-in-law, all of whom flew into action to get her to the emergency room. On the way there, Fay got a serious headache, which continued to intensify. In triage, thinking and speaking clearly was still very challenging for Fay. She relied on her mother-in-law, who is a nurse, to explain everything. Over the next seven hours, Fay underwent head and chest CT scans, blood tests, an EKG, and strength tests to see if one side was weaker than the other. Frighteningly, her left side was considerably weaker than her right. A worsening headache and not much sign of improvement caused everyone to fear the worst. Most of Fay's symptoms pointed to stroke. The panic subsided somewhat as Fay's tests started coming back with positive, "normal" results. Her blood clot levels were elevated, but the doctors felt that pain meds and prescriptions for pain and tension were the best thing to do. Although the tests were able to rule out certain causes out, no one could tell Fay why such a sudden, scary thing occurred. She was encouraged to schedule an appointment with her own doctor to discuss the situation and preventive measures. Fay had no choice but to end her exhaustive day, without knowing what really happened to her. A few points of concern: We do not know for certain whether or not Fay was given an MRI. If not, hopefully the option will be discussed with her doctor, as MRI scans can detect abnormalities that a CT scan might not. Also, while the prescription for tension may help Fay reduce her regular headaches, the pain medications may make her less aware of her specific pain. The phenomenon of medical advancement sometimes lulls us into thinking that any issue can be diagnosed, and any diagnosis can be managed. This "security" is understandable, but might be dissolved by a problem with no apparent cause. Fay's experience is not uncommon, and the only solid answer is to pay attention to your body and not hesitate to seek help if you have a concern. Also, while Fay chose to drive herself home from the store, it is never recommended that you drive with impaired vision. Please plan with a family member or friend, before anything happens, to call for a ride, rather than drive yourself anywhere.