Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Headaches
Medical Author: Dennis Lee, MD
Medical Editor: Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD
Headache is defined as pain in the head that is located above the eyes or the ears, behind the head (occipital), or in the back of the upper neck. Headache, like chest pain or dizziness, has many causes. There are two types of headaches: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Primary headaches are not associated with (caused by) other diseases. Examples of primary headaches are migraine headaches, tension headaches, and cluster headaches. Secondary headaches are caused by associated diseases such as brain tumors, strokes, meningitis, subarachnoid hemorrhages, caffeine withdrawal, or discontinuation of analgesics. In rare occasions, headaches may signal heart attacks.
Establishing the diagnosis of the headache, arriving at effective treatment(s) for the headache, and taking measures to prevent or reduce headache episodes will require cooperation between you and your doctor. Following are suggestions on how to work with your doctor in diagnosing and managing your headaches.
How Can I Help My Doctor?
Pay attention to your symptom(s) so you can describe your condition as accurately as possible:
- What are your headache location, duration, severity (worst ever headache?), and character (dull, sharp, throbbing, etc.)?
- What brings them on (for example, certain foods, stress, bright light, fasting, or sleep disturbances)?