A headache diagnosis should be simple because almost all adults have them. If you have one, you will probably know it. However, despite the obvious pain, diagnosing headaches can be a little more difficult than you might think. Some people are less able to express their feelings in words than others. Our limited vocabulary doesn’t always help. Although it may seem like a very expressive description, describing your symptoms as ‘sharp’ does not necessarily help your doctor. As if this weren’t enough, headaches come in many forms.
Tension headaches that are caused by inflamed neck muscles or dilated blood vessels, among other things, do not usually get diagnosed by a doctor. Instead, most people just treat them with painkillers until they disappear. Migraines, on the other hand, are much more severe and should be seen by a physician.
However, only about half of migraine sufferers will seek professional help. A physician can use several factors to diagnose a specific type of headache and recommend the appropriate treatment. Even though the pain experienced is subjective, the type and intensity of the headache are indicative. For example, migraines can cause severe throbbing and pulsating sensations. Tension headaches, however, are more frequent and diffuse.
Migraine headaches can also be accompanied by nausea, sensitivity to sound, light, cold extremities, and a host of other symptoms that sufferers will recognize. Because these symptoms are more or less similar from one person to another, doctors have an objective set of symptoms that they can use to diagnose the condition.
These are characterized as a strong pain behind the temple or eye that lasts between 30 and one hour. They recur the next day. Cluster headaches can last for several weeks. Because they are quite common, doctors have something to base a diagnosis. Physicians can quickly identify if a headache is caused by a serious condition such as a brain tumor. A CT or MRI scan can reveal patterns that can be linked to the underlying condition.
Physicians can also find clues in headaches that get worse over time. Rapidly shifting pain patterns, for example, could indicate a weakening of the blood vessels.
It can be difficult to diagnose headaches due to the many types of headaches and the variety of symptoms. However, the key to diagnosing headaches is to get as much objective information from both the patient and the clinical tests.