How are headaches diagnosed?
The full extent of the problem may not be understood immediately, but may be revealed with a comprehensive medical evaluation and diagnostic testing. The diagnosis of a headache is made with a combination of a careful history, physical examination and diagnostic tests.
Questions commonly asked during the exam may include:
- When do the headaches occur?
- What is the location of the headache?
- What do the headaches feel like?
- How long do the headaches last?
- Have there been changes in behavior or personality?
- Do changes in position or sitting up cause the headache?
- Do you have trouble sleeping?
- Do you have a history of stress?
- Is there a history of head injury?
If the history is consistent with migraine or tension-type headaches and the neurological exam is normal, no further diagnostic testing may be necessary. If not, other tests may be needed to determine the cause.
Tests used to determine the cause of a headache may include:
- Blood tests
- CT scan (taken by a machine that combines multiple images into multidimensional views, more detailed than a typical x-ray)
- Sinus x-rays
What are the treatments for headaches?
Specific treatment for headaches will be determined by our expert team and based on:
- Severity and frequency of the headaches
- Type of headaches
- Your age, overall health and medical history
- Your tolerance for specific medications, procedures, or therapies
- Your opinion or preference
The ultimate goal is to stop headaches from occurring. Adequate headache management depends on the accurate identification of the type of headache and may include:
- Avoiding known triggers, such as certain foods and beverages, lack of sleep and fasting
- Changing eating habits
- Medications, as recommended by your physician
- Resting in a quiet, dark environment
- Stress management
Migraine headaches may require specific medication management including:
- Abortive medications (medications that act on specific receptors in nerves and blood vessels in the head to stop a headache in progress)
- Rescue medications (over-the-counter medications, such as pain relievers)
Preventive medications (medications that are taken daily to reduce the onset of severe migraine headaches)
Some headaches may require immediate medical attention including hospitalization for observation, diagnostic testing or even surgery. Treatment is individualized depending on the underlying condition causing the headache. Full recovery depends on the type of headache and other medical problems that may be present.
To schedule an appointment with one of our headache specialists, please call (573) 882-1515.