When it comes to diagnosing a range of medical conditions it can he a lot harder than you might think and this includes the diagnosis of headaches. Many people for instance who suffer from sinusitis, which is an inflammation of the sinus cavities causing head pain, believe that they have sinus headaches when they are in fact suffering from mild migraine.
For this reason if you are suffering from frequent headaches it is a good idea to talk to your physician and get a proper diagnosis. However, before you do so it is also a good idea to collect together some information to help your physician and this can best be done by keeping a headache diary.
Each time you have a headache you should note down when it starts and ends and describe as accurately as you can just where you feel pain and how severe that pain is. Is it for example a dull and constant pain, or a sharp stabbing pain which tends to come and go. It is also important to note down what you were doing when the headache started and in the period running up to its onset. Food too can play an important part in headaches so you should note down anything that you ate in the hours before your headache started. All of this information will be very helpful to your physician.
For example, one way to differentiate between cluster headaches and a bad case of migraine is by considering the pain which each produces. Both tend to produce sharp pain which tends to pulsate, but with cluster headaches this pain is normally confined to quite specific areas such as behind just one eye or in the region of one temple. Additionally, cluster headaches tend to follow a timetable appearing at the same time each day for several weeks at a time.
Headaches can also result directly from your lifestyle and in some people can be brought on by exercise, while in other people they might be triggered by drinking red wine or eating chocolate or cheese. Stress can also play a part and it is not uncommon for people to experience headaches after they have moved to a new city or changed their job. Here your diary will not only help the doctor to diagnose your headache but will often also provide the basis for recommending a suitable treatment.
In addition to what we might term ‘normal’ or ‘primary’ headaches there are also a variety of underlying conditions which can give rise to ‘secondary’ headaches and sometimes even a detailed diary will not be enough for your physician to make a firm diagnosis. In this case however there are a range of advanced diagnostic tools available.
One such tool is the computer tomography (CT) scanner which uses a series of carefully directed x-ray beams to create a three dimensional picture of the brain. Another commonly used technique today is magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) which uses the electromagnetic activity within the brain to create a map of the skull.
Even with information provided by the patient and data collected from advanced testing diagnosing headaches is not a perfect science. Nevertheless, if you gather together enough information and pop along to your physician, ninety-nine times out of one hundred he will be able to come up with an accurate diagnosis.