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What Are the Causes of Head Pressure?

author image Elle Paula
Elle Paula has a Bachelor of Science in nutrition from Framingham State College and a certificate in holistic nutrition from the American College of Healthcare Sciences. She is also a licensed aesthetician with advanced training in skincare and makeup. She plans to continue on with her education, complete a master's degree program in nutrition and, ultimately, become a registered dietitian.
What Are the Causes of Head Pressure?
Head pressure can cause serious damage to the brain and spinal cord.

Head pressure, medically referred to as intracranial pressure, is pressure between the skull and the brain. Too much pressure in the head can restrict blood flow to the brain and press on structures in the brain. It is a serious medical condition that has the potential to cause severe damage to the brain or spinal cord. Contact your doctor if you experience pressure in the head. Symptoms of abnormal head pressure include lethargy, behavior changes, headache, seizures and vomiting.


Meningitis literally means the inflammation of the meninges, which are membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. When the meninges become inflamed, they swell up and take up more space in the central nervous system, which causes head pressure. There are two types of meningitis: bacterial and viral. Bacterial meningitis is rare, but life-threatening. Viral meningitis is the more common form. The viruses and bacteria that cause meningitis are easily spread in crowded places, such as college dorms and boarding schools. Symptoms of meningitis include fever, lethargy, headache, irritability, stiff neck and skin rashes. Bacterial meningitis is a medical emergency that must be treated promptly with intravenous antibiotics and corticosteroids to reduce inflammation. Without treatment, bacterial meningitis can lead to brain damage or death. Viral meningitis usually resolves itself in seven to 10 days without treatment, but bed rest and increased intake of fluid is recommended until the infection goes away, according to Kids Health.


Encephalitis is an inflammation of the brain that usually occurs as a result of a viral infection. As the brain swells, it presses against the hard bone of the skull, which results in head pressure. Encephalitis may be primary or secondary. Primary encephalitis occurs as a result of a direct invasion of the brain or spinal cord by a virus. Secondary encephalitis occurs as a result of a viral infection that affects another part of the body and then travels to the brain. Most cases of encephalitis are minor and symptoms include headache, irritability, lethargy, fever and joint pain. Symptoms of more severe cases include confusion, changes in personality, double vision, seizures, muscle weakness, loss of sensation and tremors. Most cases of encephalitis resolve on their own with bed rest, increased fluid intake and pain relievers to reduce headache, according to the Mayo Clinic. Depending on the type of virus that is causing the inflammation, some cases improve with the use of anti-viral medications, as well.

Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

The subarachnoid space is the small area between the brain and the tissue that covers the brain. A subarachnoid hemorrhage is bleeding that occurs in the subarachnoid space. When blood fills that small space, it results in head pressure. A subarachnoid hemorrhage may be a result of a bleeding disorder, head injury, aneurysm or brain abnormalities. Symptoms of a subarachnoid hemorrhage include decreased consciousness, loss of feeling, personality changes, muscle aches, nausea, vomiting, stiff neck and vision problems, according to Medline Plus. A subarachnoid hemorrhage is a medical emergency that requires immediate treatment. An emergency surgery will be performed during which the surgeon will remove the excess blood from the brain and try to repair the cause of bleeding. Blood pressure medications and pain killers will also be given to reduce head pressure and reduce headaches.

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