Diagnosis of Headache
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. The cause of a headache can be difficult to determine. The doctor will ask about the frequency and pattern of your headaches. To help provide answers, keep a diary of:
- When your headaches start and end
- What you were doing at the time
- What you did to try to relieve pain and how effective the treatment was
- Family members with the same condition
- Triggers that you are aware of
- Where the pain is located and where it spreads to
- Other symptoms associated with the pain
Tests to determine the cause of headaches include:
Neurological exam to assess:
- Muscle strength
- Mental status
- Cranial nerve function
Blood tests—Blood tests may be done to exclude other causes of your headache. These include
blood glucose, a
complete blood count
or infection, as well as other studies to potentially look for evidence of inflammation.
—During this procedure, spinal fluid is collected to look for bleeding, infections, or cancer.
The opening pressure may also be measured.
Imaging tests are used to evaluate internal structures for abnormalities. Some tests may use contrast material to make structures easier to see. These may include:
Nasal endoscopy—A thin, lighted tube with a camera is inserted into the nasal cavity. If needed, tissue samples can be taken for examination under a miroscope.
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Headache—frequently asked questions. National Headache Foundation website. Available at:
http://www.headaches.org/headache-faq. Accessed October 2, 2017.
May A. A review of diagnostic and functional imaging in headache.
J Headache Pain.
Migraine in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114718/Migraine-in-adults. Updated August 9, 2016. Accessed October 2, 2017.
NINDS headache information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
website. Available at:
https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Headache-Information-Page. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Sahai-Srivastava S, Desai P, Zheng L. Analysis of headache management in a busy emergency room in the United States.
Tension-type headache. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114522/Tension-type-headache. Updated February 8, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.
- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board
Rimas Lukas, MD
- Review Date:
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