Diagnosis and treatment

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Updated: 4/11/2007 2:47 pm
A medical evaluation for headaches has two major goals: first, to diagnose which type of headache is occurring; and second, to develop a plan to relieve suffering. The primary system for classifying headaches is that developed by the International Headache Society. Under this system, each headache is classified according to specific features or symptoms. Therefore, a physician may take a complete medical history and a detailed description of the headaches. A doctor will need to know when the headaches began, how often they recur, and if there's any pattern to the attacks. Be prepared to describe the type of pain, its intensity, its location, and whether it responds to physical activity. The interview may be followed by a physical examination, and occasionally, a neurological assessment. Laboratory tests may also be performed to eliminate the possibility of systemic (sis-TEM-ik) illnesses, which can be responsible for headaches. In some cases, brain imaging tests such as an MRI (M-R-I), CAT (cat) scan, or MRA (M-R-A) may be required to rule out serious intracranial (in-truh-CRAY-nee-ul) conditions. Once a diagnosis has been made, a number of medications can be prescribed to prevent or greatly reduce the severity and frequency of attacks. For more information about the diagnosis and treatment of headaches, consult a health care provider.

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