If you’re wondering if a 24/7 headache can be caused by a brain tumor, the answer is yes, but there are four other leading causes of a headache that just won’t go away.
If you’ve been suffering from a nonstop or nearly nonstop headache, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, it’s only natural to place a brain tumor at the top of the list of possible causes.
Many people’s first thought, about their 24/7 headache, is that it might be a brain tumor. They google information about this but do not come up with anything reassuring.
Jenepher Piper has been a family practice nurse practitioner for Maryland Family Care for 19 years and a former nurse with Home Care Nurse for Johns Hopkins Home Care. I asked her what were the top five causes of a 24/7 headache.
Causes of headaches span a wide range of medical domains, from neurosurgery to the ear, nose and throat specialty to neuropharmacology to cardiology and more.
Piper has worked with thousands of patients with all sorts of medical issues—including headaches from a variety of causes.
So according to Piper, here are the top five causes, in descending order, of a 24/7 headache:
“Usually a result of uncontrolled allergic rhinitis causing chronic tissue swelling surrounding the nose, ears and throat, leading to blockage of sinus fluids and an increased pressure sensation or headache,” says Piper.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure)
This cause will be the farthest thing from many people’s minds, as hypertension typically does not cause symptoms (it’s dubbed “the silent killer” by doctors).
People are taught to associate high blood pressure with an increased risk of stroke, not constant headache.
Piper explains, “Elevated blood pressure causes an increase of spinal fluid in the brain leading to increased intracranial pressure.”
Medication Side Effect
“Any substances leading to fluid retention (NSAIDS, prednisone, hormones) and intracranial pressure,” says Piper.
“‘Chronic daily headache’ is a common term associated with a type of headache or migraine that has been ineffectively or improperly treated, eventually leading to a ‘medication rebound’ headache, dependent on the presence of chronic substance overuse (caffeine, anti-inflammatories, opiates or even medications developed specifically to treat headache like Imitrex or Maxalt, to name a couple),” explains Piper.
Brain Tumor (Rare)
A brain tumor “occupies space, pressing on vital structures and increasing pressure in the head by backing flow fluid and blood.”
The rareness of a brain tumor causing a constant headache is relative to the likeliest cause of this troubling symptom. That’s why it ranks at the bottom of the five.
So many more people suffer from the first four conditions that, from that perspective, the brain tumor IS rare.
However, among brain tumor patients, headache occurs in about 50 percent, says the American Brain Tumor Association.
Early on in a new-onset 24/7 headache that’s caused by a brain tumor, there MAY be no other symptoms.
But soon enough, there will be other symptoms, and they can run the gamut, but the more common ones are seizures, visual disturbances, cognitive changes, vomiting, nausea and weakness. It also won’t usually respond to common pain remedies.
A brain tumor headache also is usually worse in the morning. But honorable mention for a possible cause of an ongoing headache is sleep apnea.
The sleep apnea headache, like the brain tumor one, is typically worse upon awakening in the morning.
Patients suffering from conditions such as coronary artery disease, obesity and diabetes turn to Nurse Practitioner Piper to help them best manage their overall health.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.