Thunderclap Headache Definition, Reason, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Thunderclap Headache Definition, Reason, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention


Thunderclap is an English term that means the sound of thunder. Thunderclap headache describes a very intense headache, which occurs suddenly, has never happened before.

Symptoms of this headache generally make sufferers seek medical help immediately.

Thunderclap Headache Symptoms

Thunderclap headaches can be caused by many things. The main symptom is an intense headache that lasts at least five minutes. Other symptoms depend on the disease that causes the thunderclap headache.

If it is caused by a migraine, complaints of headaches can usually be felt as throbbing, more often only on one side of the head. In addition, before a headache appears, the person experiencing it can feel an aura. This aura is in the form of blurred vision, such as seeing light, ringing in the ears, or other nervous disorders.

If it is caused by a bleeding stroke, then generally a thunderclap headache is accompanied by other signs. For example, vomiting sprays, decreased consciousness, and blood pressure soaring.

If it is caused by a brain tumor, generally before a thunderclap headache occurs, a progressive headache occurs first. In addition, it also generally occurs continuously in the same location.

If a thunderclap headache is accompanied by the following symptoms, the patient should see a doctor immediately:

  • Thunderclap headaches that occur after physical activity. For example after sexual activity, after straining during bowel movements, or after an injury.
  • Fever.
  • Weakened arms or legs.
  • Visual impairment.
  • Hands or feet feel numb or tingling.
  • Speech is slurred, mouth is crooked, it is difficult to speak, or it is difficult to understand other people’s speech.
  • Appears confused, drowsy, or unconscious.

Thunderclap Headache Reason

Not all cases of thunderclap headaches have a known cause. Some cases appear suddenly without a trigger and just disappear. However, some cases of other thunderclap headaches are known to have clear causes.

Based on the cause, thunderclap headaches are generally divided into two groups, namely:

  1. Thunderclap headaches caused by blood vessel disorders (eg stroke), injury, or brain structural abnormalities (eg brain tumors).
  2. Thunderclap headache with no clear cause.


Complaints of thunderclap headaches need further evaluation. If a nervous breakdown is found that accompanies headaches, it is necessary to do a CT- scan of the brain. As an alternative, an MRI of the brain may also be performed.

If the thunderclap headache complaint is suspected to be caused by an infection in the lining of the brain, then a lumbar puncture examination to collect cerebrospinal fluid also needs to be done.

Thunderclap Headache Treatment

Treatment for thunderclap headaches varies, depending on the cause. The most important action is to make sure in advance whether the thunderclap headache you are experiencing is something dangerous or not.

If it is caused by a stroke or tumor, treatment is carried out in the emergency room and intensive care unit. Thunderclap headache due to stroke or tumor occurs due to increased intracranial pressure (pressure in the brain).

To lower the pressure, the actions that need to be taken are:

  • The patient is hospitalized and needs to be installed with a device to monitor blood pressure and heart rate.
  • The patient lies down with the head raised 30 degrees.
  • Blood pressure is controlled so that it is not too high, but not too low either. If necessary, blood pressure-lowering drugs through infusion can be given.
  • If needed, given drugs through an IV to reduce fluid in the brain.

If the thunderclap headache is not caused by anything dangerous, then it is sufficient for the patient to rest 6–8 hours at night and take painkillers – such as paracetamol or ibuprofen. If the headache does not go away, the patient should immediately see a doctor.


Prevention of thunderclap headaches depends on each cause. But in general, by practicing a healthy lifestyle, the risk of thunderclap headaches can be reduced. For example, by eating lots of fiber and low in fat, doing physical activity 4-5 times per week, sleeping at night for 6-8 hours, and avoiding exposure to cigarette smoke.

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