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
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—The doctor may perform a neurological exam to assess:
Cranial nerve function
Blood tests—Blood tests may be done to exclude other causes of your headache. These include
complete blood count
or infection, as well as other studies to potentially look for evidence of inflammation.
—X-rays of the neck may help determine if arthritis is contributing to a tension headache. Skull x-rays may be taken to check for structural changes responsible for
—This is a type of x-ray that uses a computer to make pictures of structures inside the head. A CT scan is used to check for conditions that may cause headaches or to determine if a structural problem is causing chronic sinusitis.
—This is a test that uses magnetic waves to make pictures of structures inside the head. An MRI scan can be used to check for any conditions (
or bleeding in head) that may be responsible for your headaches.
Nasal endoscopy—The doctor uses a thin, lighted tube to look inside your nose and possibly take samples of drainage to be tested for
(LP, spinal tap)—During this procedure, spinal fluid is collected to look for bleeding, infections, or cancer.
Oftentimes, tests are done to rule out causes of your headaches.
Guidelines for All Doctors in the Diagnosis and Management of Migraine and Tension-Type Headache.
2nd ed. London, UK: British Association for the Study of Headache (BASH); 2004.
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care
provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER
IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the
advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to
starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a