Headache Diagnosis – How are Headaches Diagnosed

Every adult has experienced a headache at some point. However, headaches vary greatly in frequency and severity. Most people can self-diagnose their own headaches and often turn to over-the-counter medications to help relieve the pain. However, doctors do not have any set of tests for headache diagnosis. Instead, they mostly rely on the description that patients give them, and typically, the descriptions of the symptoms of headache pains vary wildly. It is important to share the symptoms of headaches because that can help the doctor identify the type of headaches from which you are suffering. However, there is also the variable of the level of pain tolerance that each of us has. For example, you may think you have a migraine just because you do not deal well with the pain from a basic tension headache.

Identifying Different Types of Headaches

Doctors generally ask a variety of questions to help identify the type of headache that is being looked into. It is possible you are suffering from tension headaches, migraines or cluster headaches. However, it is possible that your headaches are a symptom of a major medical issue such as a brain tumor, cancer or a neurological disorder.

The type of pain that is experienced often indicates the headache type. For instance, migraines generally come with throbbing pain that is very intense. Migraines are often accompanied by sensitivity to light and sound. Nausea is also a common symptom.

Tension headaches, on the other hand, are painful, but not to the same degree. Tension headaches are often the result of tight muscles in the neck, back or shoulders. They are also caused by constricted blood vessels in the head. Most people don’t see their doctor for basic tension headaches unless the frequency is causing them concern. Tension headaches can be treated with analgesics or by simply enduring the pain until it disappears.

Cluster headaches cause severe pain that is usually felt in the area behind the eyes or temple. Cluster headaches can last up to one hour and come back each day close to the same time. This can happen for weeks or months at a time then the cluster headaches stop just as quickly as they started.

To help identify the types of headaches you are experiencing, the doctor may request a CT or MRI scan to be completed. This can help identify irregular brain activities that could be responsible for the headaches. A CT or MRI scan is generally recommended when the headaches are getting more severe pain wise over a period of time.

In some instances, the headaches are often caused by MOH or medication overuse headaches. If MOH is what's causing the headaches, the doctor will alter the dosage or even change the medication. The doctor will also look at the sufferer's medical and family history in an effort to diagnose the headache. For instance, migraines tend to be genetic, while cluster headaches are not.

Diagnosing headaches often takes time because there are so many variables to look at. The more information you can provide your doctor, the sooner a proper diagnosis and solution can be found.

Page Updated: November 12, 2016
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