This is probably a question that has been going round and around in your (painful) head for quite some time. Many people suffer headaches in silence, accepting them as just another minor irritation to bear – ignore it and it will eventually go away.
But what about when a headache won’t go away – or it keeps recurring? What then? Or if the headaches become so painful they begin to effect directly the way you live your life? When a headache becomes a problem, it is time for action.
What is causing that headache?
Get a diagnosis
The first step in solving the problem of headaches is to get a diagnosis from the doctor. Establishing the situation surrounding the headaches will need a lot of careful questioning and analysis so be prepared for the third degree.
Questions to ask a Doctor
Questions the doctor is likely to want the answers to include:
• What age were you when the headaches began?
• How long have you been suffering with them?
• Do you suffer single or multiple headache episodes?
• Are there any triggers that you can identify – things such as foods, medications, situations, that may spark a headache?
• Does physical exercise make the headaches worse?
• How often do they occur?
• Does anyone else in the family suffer in the same way?
Taking pills should only be seen as a short-term solution for headaches
There will also be questions about your background, whether you have a history of drug abuse or other similar factors which may be pertinent.
The doctor is likely to ask you to describe the headaches as best you can. The type of pain – is it an ache or a sharp stabbing pain, for example? Where is it located and does it move around?
How long do headaches last and do they strike at any particular time of day?
Are your headaches accompanied by an aura, bright lights, blind spots or visual disturbances?
Are there any other things that accompany the headache such as nausea, weakness, fatigue, sensitivity to noise and light or mood swings?
Yes, there are a lot of questions to consider, but it is vital they are all addressed in order to gather a comprehensive picture of the headaches you are suffering.
A physical and neurological examination
In addition to questions, a physical and neurological examination may be needed to ascertain further details of your condition. The doctor will assess you for fever, respiratory problems, dizziness and balance issues, seizures, speech problems, excessive fatigue, nausea, muscle weakness or numbness, vision problems and blood pressure issues.
Need for scans
If the results of these investigations prove inconclusive it may be suggested that a CT (Computed Tomography) Scan or an MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) scan be carried out to take a closer look inside the skull. CT Scans involve using x-rays and computers to scan the body, giving a cross-section image of the particular area of concern. Alternatively, an MRI scan which uses magnets rather than X rays and gives clear images of the internals of the body can be used. Both procedures are painless, companies like http://www.euromedic.pt/ will be able to provide the scans.
Other diagnostic procedures which may be suggested by the doctor include a Sinus x-ray, if it seems likely the headaches are caused by sinus problems. Alternatively, if the doctor considers it likely the headaches are due to eye or visual conditions, an Ophthalmology Evaluation will be carried out to check for glaucoma or optic nerve pressure which could be triggering the headaches.
Blood, urine and lumbar puncture tests
In addition it’s likely that blood and urine analysis will be carried out to rule out headache-causing illnesses such as thyroid conditions, infections and diabetes.
If the headaches are thought to be being caused by something in the brain or spinal cord, a lumbar puncture may be carried out – this involves taking a sample of spinal fluid from the spinal canal. Following this test, it is possible to suffer a headache for a few hours.
Headaches that have no obvious cause can be a bit of a worry. If you have been suffering in silence for a while, pop along to your doctor and discuss with them how you’ve been feeling. Read through the questions above and go in armed with as much information as possible as this will enable the doctor as a medical professional to make a thorough initial assessment of your condition, and devise the best method of treatment swiftly as possible.
Image Credits: Allspice1 and Hicham Souilmi