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Thunderclap Headache: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Verified By Apollo Neurologist July 8, 2022 2606 0
Thunderclap Headache
Thunderclap Headache: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

What is a thunderclap headache?

Thunderclap headaches are extremely painful. These occur all of a sudden and peak within a minute. Hence, because of the nature of occurrence, these are called thunderclap headaches. 

What do we need to know about thunderclap headaches? 

These are uncommon and sometimes can be an indication of fatal neurological problems; these usually point toward internal bleeding in the brain. It’s very important to seek immediate medical attention if you are experiencing several episodes of thunderclap headache. It’s categorized as one of medical science’s most painful and worst headaches. 

What are the symptoms of thunderclap headaches? 

Symptoms include:

When do you need to see a doctor?

Thunderclap headaches are uncommon and need medical attention. Consult your doctor if you experience episodes of sudden, painful headaches.


What causes thunderclap headaches?

There is no particular reason for thunderclap headaches. It usually indicates potentially dangerous neurological conditions such as:

In certain cases, a physical cause for thunderclap headache is not found. Such types of thunderclap headaches are considered to occur due to an idiopathic benign recurrent headache disorder.

There can also be triggers for thunderclap headaches and these include:

  • Physical activity
  • Sexual activity
  • Injury
  • A bowel movement, which causes you to strain

What are the complications associated with thunderclap headaches?

These extremely fatal headaches are often associated with 

What are the treatment options for thunderclap headaches?

Treatment is completely based on the cause of the headaches. Generally, doctors prescribe medications to control blood pressure and recurrence of thunderclap headaches.

Surgery is performed in case of blockage or any sort of damage to the brain. Pain medicines to control recurrent thunderclap headaches, especially those that have a specific trigger may also be used.


Thunderclap headaches can be a symptom of underlying problems in the brain. It’s important to seek immediate medical attention in case thunderclap headaches are recurring because these can be fatal. Thunderclap headaches can be treated if given timely attention. 

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

How is the underlying problem that is causing thunderclap headaches diagnosed?

The first and foremost step towards treating thunderclap headaches is to determine the cause through physical evaluation and CT scan. If nothing is detected through CT scan, then other imaging techniques are done to diagnose the cause, such as:

MRI of the brain and MRA of the brain to see the pattern of blood flow in the brain.

Spinal tap or lumbar puncture to test infection in the cerebrospinal fluid.

How can thunderclap headaches be prevented?

As they occur without warning or they themselves are indications of serious neurological conditions, it’s difficult to prevent them. Once you know the cause of thunderclap headaches, it becomes easier to prevent or to manage them. Generally, high blood pressure and vascular problems can trigger thunderclap headaches, hence it’s important to maintain a healthy lifestyle to keep your blood pressure under control. To reduce vascular problems, quit smoking and eat fat-rich foods. 

What is the difference between thunderclap headaches and ice pick headaches? 

Thunderclap headaches are sudden and painful headaches that peak within a minute whereas ice pick headaches cause stabbing pain in the front and sides of the head for a brief time.

Verified By Apollo Neurologist
The content is medically reviewed and verified by highly qualified Neurologists who bring extensive experience as well as their perspective from years of clinical practice, research and patient care

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