Should I see a doctor about headaches?

See a doctor immediately if:

  • your headache pain gets progressively worse or lasts longer than it has in the past
  • you have headaches now and never had headaches before
  • your headache is associated with weakness, numbness, or changes in hearing and vision
  • you experience confusion, decreased levels of consciousness, or personality changes
  • your headache is associated with a stiff neck, rash, nausea, vomiting, fever, difficulty breathing, or head trauma

If your headaches are severe or frequent enough to disrupt your life, you need to see your doctor. You shouldn't try to diagnose and treat your headaches on your own. You and your doctor need to work together to know what kind or kinds of headaches you have and what the appropriate treatment is.

If you suspect you have a chronic headache disorder, make an appointment to see your doctor. Ask about his or her experience diagnosing and treating headaches. A doctor with experience should take your complaint seriously, discussing your medical and family history with you and taking the time to answer your questions. Tests and scans are not usually needed to diagnose most headaches, so don't expect them.

After talking with you, your doctor may refer you to a specialist or headache clinic. Each offers a comprehensive approach to diagnosing and treating your headaches. You'll find this approach especially helpful if you have other physical conditions, such as diabetes or allergies. These conditions may require special consideration when choosing among treatments for your headaches.

It is also helpful to visit a headache clinic or specialist if you take daily pain medication for your headaches. Taking daily pain medication can lead to an endless cycle of headaches that require a special approach to treatment.

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