How Are They Diagnosed?Not all headaches require a trip to the doctor's office. In fact, most of them can be treated with medications or other treatment options. However, some types of head pain are signals of more serious disorders and call for prompt medical care.
These more serious symptoms can include:
- A sudden, severe headache
- A sudden headache associated with a stiff neck
- Headaches associated with a fever or convulsions, or accompanied by confusion or loss of consciousness
- Headaches following a blow to the head, or associated with pain in the eye or ear
- Persistent headaches in a person who was previously headache-free.
If you do visit your healthcare provider, he or she will begin by asking a number of questions about the pain, such as how often you have headaches or where the pain is located. He or she will also ask about other symptoms that you may experience. Your healthcare provider will also perform a physical exam to look for signs of conditions known to cause headaches. If your healthcare provider is unsure of the diagnosis, he or she may also order tests to rule out other, more serious causes.
(Click Headache Diagnosis for more information.)
What Are the Treatment Options?The treatment your healthcare provider recommends will depend on the cause of the pain. Treatment options will also depend on the frequency and severity of the headache, as well as the level of disability it causes. Some people with mild, infrequent headaches may do fine with over-the-counter medications. Other people may need more powerful medicines to treat moderate-to-severe attacks. Finally, others may have headaches so frequently that preventive treatment is recommended.
In general, your healthcare provider may recommend one or more treatment options, including:
- Lifestyle changes
- Medications (see Headache Medicines)
- Alternative treatments (see Natural Headache Relief).