Headache Diagnosis

With all the types of headaches you can suffer through, it is important to get a proper headache diagnosis to ensure proper treatment. Headaches can be problems in and of themselves, or they may be a sign or symptom of a more serious medical condition. If your headache seems outside the norm for you, do not hesitate to seek medical attention to ensure that a serious medical condition is not the cause.

Patient History

The first thing a doctor does to diagnose your headache is to take a patient history, also known as a subjective evaluation. This is your story of when and how the headaches present themselves, whether you have a family history of headache, and other medical information you provide.  If you are being treated for a serious headache problem, a minimum of 30 minutes should be set aside for face to face discussion between the patient and the doctor. Frequently an hour or more will be needed just to review the relevant history. 

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Patients should have a chronological history when they first visit a new doctor that includes previous doctors, previous diagnostic testing and what diagnosis, if any, was made. The patient should also include information about medication history, including drugs taken and in what combinations, length of time taken and positive or negative effects and side effects.   It is also important to report all previous treatments and how effective they were, as well reporting life events and illnesses occurring during this same period.  How the pain is affecting you life, moods, work and relationships with friends and family are all critical pieces of information to be shared with your doctor or dentist.

Some of the questions they may ask include:

  • How long does the pain last?
  • Is the pain mild, moderate or severe?
  • When does the pain occur
  • What is the first symptom of pain
  • Where is the pain located?
  • Is there any nausea or vomiting?
  • What medications have you taken and how did they affect you.

Examination

After taking your history, your doctor will examine you. Based on your history and the physical examination, the doctor may make a determination, or may decide to run some additional tests to aid in the diagnosis. It is vitally important to bring reports of previous testing to your doctor or dentist to avoid unnecessary testing and expense.

Tests

Testing of various types is performed primarily to rule out an underlying cause of a secondary headache. Some of the tests used are:

  • MRI
  • CT Scan
  • Electro-encephalogram (EEG)
  • PET Scans

The tests do not necessarily pinpoint the headache but confirm other observations made by the doctor in order to ensure that some more serious condition is not the cause.

The Final Diagnosis

All of the following headaches may be helped by neuromuscular dental evaluation and treatment.

  • Tension headaches – These types of headaches will have no pain or sensitivity externally during the examination. In other words, everything appears normal.
  • Cluster headaches – In most cases, the patient history is enough to make a diagnosis of cluster headache. Sometimes, if an attack is underway, the doctor may observe some of the signs and symptoms directly.
  • Migraine headaches – This type of headache is also determined primarily based on the patient history. Unless the patient presents themselves during bouts of nausea or vomiting, the doctor will not be able to observe any outward signs of migraine headache.
  • Secondary headaches – In many cases, secondary headaches are obviously related to other trauma, the patient may present severe symptoms pointing to traumatic brain injury. Other instances are less obvious and are diagnosed by some of the testing methods mentioned above.

Headaches that present themselves suddenly and painfully should be diagnosed and treated immediately. If you experience chronic headaches that just won't go away, your doctor may be able to prescribe a treatment plan that will help minimize the onset of future headaches. If you are concerned about your headache, do not hesitate to seek medical help.

Contact our iHATEheadaches dentists for a personalized evaluation for headache diagnosis. Let us help treat the specific type of headaches you may suffer from.

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