Health Topics

Diagnosing and Treating Headaches

What Kind of Headache Do You Have?

In order to treat a headache properly, you must first know which type of headache you suffer from. The primary types of headaches are:

  1. Tension
  2. Cluster
  3. Rebound
  4. Migraine

Tension Headaches

Tension-type headaches usually feel like a dull ache on each side of the head.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches are rare and usually strike men. They produce sharp pain around one eye and are dubbed "cluster" headaches since they usually occur in clusters, then disappear for months or even years.

Rebound Headaches

Rebound headaches originate from overuse of medication for chronic headache pain. Symptoms increase instead of decrease.

Migraine Headaches

Migraine headaches strike three times more in women than men, and bring a pounding pain in varying degrees of severity. Other symptoms including increased sensitivity to light, vomiting and dizziness. Children can also suffer migraine headaches.

How Are Headaches Diagnosed?

It is important to diagnose headaches correctly so that specific therapy can be started. Although scans and other tests are important to exclude disease, they do not help in diagnosing migraine, cluster or tension-type headaches.

The information the patient gives the doctor about his or her headaches (including the history of the headaches) is the most important factor in making the proper diagnosis. Headache sufferers must provide their doctor with a good description of their symptoms in order that the correct diagnosis is made. The correct diagnosis is essential for the headache to be treated successfully.

It is important for patients to tell their doctor:

  • The type of pain they feel
  • The location of the pain in their head
  • If there are any accompanying symptoms such as nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to light and noise
  • If physical activity aggravates the pain
  • A list of medications being taken, including any over the counter products. Taking pain medications too frequently can lead to intermittent headaches becoming chronic and daily.

What Is The Doctor's Role?

The doctor's role is to listen and help the patient provide a complete history of the headaches and any associated symptoms. The doctor will also thoroughly examine the patient and order the necessary tests to evaluate and diagnose any possible organic causes that may need treatment.

Treatment with or without medications should be tailored to each individual, depending on the type of headache present and any other possible medical problems.