How to tell if your migraine is really the sign of something much worse

This is what to look for...

May 02 2017

One woman's story, reported in PEOPLE earlier this week, shows the importance of distinguishing between pain caused by a migraine and other sources.

Lee Broadway, a 42-year-old mother from North Carolina in the US, passed away suddenly on April 3 after experiencing what she described as the 'worst headache' of her life. It turned out to be a brain aneurysm, which is a weakness in a blood vessel in the brain which bulges and fills with blood.

An unruptured aneurysm will not cause any symptoms, however a ruptured aneurysm requires emergency medical treatment, and can be identified by a sudden, severe headache.

Lee Broadway's husband Eric told PEOPLE that while his wife suffered migraines regularly, he knew something was really wrong when she said this time was 'different'.

“I raced home and took her to the ER,” he said. “I knew this couldn’t be good because I’ve seen her deal with pain before.”

The Mayo Clinic advises that if you experience a sudden, extremely severe headache that could be described as the 'worst headache of your life' then you should immediately call emergency services.

Samantha Harrington, M.D., backs up their advice, telling Allure that while the symptoms of a migraine and a brain aneurysm can be similar, the severity can differ, and the pain can come on more quickly.

“While migraines are hard to define, they’re generally what people think of as a classic headache,” says Samantha Harrington, M.D. “In contrast, a brain aneurysm is an actual bleed inside the brain.” 

Pregnant women or women over 40 should also be particularly cautious if they notice any major changes, as they are at a higher risk.

This article originally appeared on Women's Health.