Unfortunately, primary headache disorders like migraines or cluster headaches are often undiagnosed and untreated. If you regularly experience the signs and symptoms described above, you should start to keep a record of your episodes and how you treated them. Once you have a relatively comprehensive record of your experience with headaches, make an appointment with your doctor to discuss your headaches and develop a plan to manage them. There is no reason to suffer through a primary or secondary headache disorder; these conditions can quickly grow to envelop your whole life, jeopardizing your relationships, leisure time, and workplace productivity.
Furthermore, there are certain instances in which you should seek medical treatment immediately for a headache, as the headache could be a sign of a much more serious underlying condition.
- A sudden, severe headache called a thunderclap that strikes out of nowhere.
- A headache with accompanying feverishness, stiff neck, acute mental fog, seizures, double vision, or numbness, weakness, or tingling in the head, neck, or extremities.
- Headache following any head injury, even a minor one. This is especially true if the headache worsens, instead of improves, over time.
- A headache that gets worse after coughing, exertion, straining, or sudden movement.
- Chronic headaches that start after the age of 50.
Even if you have a long-established history of chronic headaches, you should see your doctor if their pattern, symptomatology, or severity changes suddenly or slowly over time. This could be a sign that your condition is worsening and you need to get out in front of the changes before they get worse.
Preparing for Your Appointment
In addition to a headache journal, there are a few things you should do to prepare for your first appointment with a headache specialist. First, assemble a list of all the members of your family who suffer from headaches, including their symptomatology and what works or doesn’t work to alleviate their headache suffering. Second, make sure you can clearly communicate the exact symptoms you experience during an attack: Where is the pain located? How bad is it? Do you have any of the other symptoms described above? Do they happen at a certain time or do they strike at random seemingly out of nowhere? Any known triggers? Finally, gather any applicable medical records from past headache visits and come prepared with any and all of your questions for the specialist.