May 29, 2009
When to Seek Help for Your Headache
Augusta, GA-"Take two aspirin and call me in the morning" used to be the prescription of choice for headache sufferers.
But as anyone who has ever experienced a debilitating headache knows, sometimes that old advice just isn't enough. According to the National Headache Foundation, 29.5 million people in the U.S. alone suffer from migraines, headaches that are severe enough to affect your work or your enjoyment of daily activities.
Many people choose to suffer through the pain, thinking, "It's just a headache." But when over-the-counter medications are no longer effective, or if headaches increase in frequency, it may be time to seek further help.
The Walton Pain & Headache Center advises patients to consult a headache specialist if:
Before your first visit, it's a good idea to keep track of your headaches through a headache diary or calendar, which can help identify a pattern to your headaches, and assist in diagnosis and treatment. Your diary should include information such as:
- You have two or more disabling headaches a week that impede your ability to function well at work or make you unable to go to work.
- You have four to six headaches a month and find it difficult to function at work or must take medication in order to function at work.
- You have never had headaches, but start to develop a pattern of escalating headaches. Everyone can have a bad month, but if a trend develops, for example, you have two headaches one month, then four, then more the next month, you should considering seeing a specialist.
This information can help your headache specialist determine what type of headache you're experiencing. Headache types include migraines (which are by far the most common diagnosis), tension headaches, cluster headaches and secondary headaches, which are caused by another disease or diagnosis, such as a tumor or infection.
- Triggers. Your sleep patterns, food choices, when you eat, stress levels, and for women, when you have your period, can all trigger a headache. It's important that you note these types of daily activities.
- Headaches. Along with the date and length of time of your headache, note the severity. Describe other symptoms, including nausea, seeing auras, dizziness or more.
- Medication. Include information on what medication you took to relieve your headache, and whether or not it was successful.
A headache diary can also pinpoint some preventative measures to help patients avoid a throbbing head. For example, your physician might determine that strong scents like smoke or perfume, or food products that contain caffeine or MSG, might be at the root of your headaches.
The good news is that excellent prescription medications such as Imitrex are now available to help treat migraines and other headaches. Daily medications may even be recommended for patients with chronic headaches to help prevent onset. Injections using nerve blocks or Botox may also be options for certain patients.
Remember, if you have regular headaches, you don't have to suffer through the pain. A headache specialist can help provide relief so you don't have to live with the headache of having headaches.
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