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Diagnosing Headaches and Migraines

While migraines are debilitating and common, not all headaches are migraines. Reviewing signs and symptoms, being examined by a physician, and undergoing appropriate medical testing are all things that help to narrow the diagnosis.

Primary Headaches
Primary headaches are those that exist independent from any other medical condition. This is in contrast to http://secondary headaches that are a result of an underlying medical issue or condition. The International Headache Society has classified over 150 different types of headaches, both primary and secondary. Here is a list…

Secondary Headaches
Secondary headaches are headaches caused by some other underlying condition. Primary headaches, such as migraines, tension headaches, and cluster headaches, exist independently from other medical conditions, although they can certainly be affected by them. Here is a list of some medical conditions and issues that can cause secondary headaches.

Diagnosing Headaches - Sharing Symptoms Helpful in Diagnosing…
Diagnosing headaches does not need to be a complicated matter. In order for your physician to properly diagnose your headache and prescribe an adequate treatment, it is important to relay symptoms in an orderly and logical format. Share how you organize your thoughts to effectively discuss your headaches with your physician.

Headache Types
There are a variety of headache types, including migraine headaches, cluster headaches, sinus headaches, and tension headaches. Each of these are due to very different causes, but all of them can be very troublesome. Understanding the distribution of pain and characteristics of each headache type will help you properly assess and treat your condition.

Diagnosing Headaches
In order for your physician to properly diagnose your headache and prescribe an adequate treatment, it is important to relay symptoms in an orderly and logical format.

Classifying Headaches
Headaches come in a variety of types, each with its own group of typical symptoms. Organizing these signs and symptoms can help classify your headache and properly treat it.

Cluster Headache Information
This patient handout from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) provides useful information about cluster headaches.

The Migraine Disability Assessment (MIDAS) Questionnaire
The Migraine Disability Assessment (MIDAS) questionnaire was developed to measure the effect migraine headaches have on your daily function. It tries to determine how many days of your life were affected to the point that you were unable to function in a way to which you are accustomed. MIDAS takes into account the past three months when asking the questions.

PedMIDAS (Pediatric Migraine Disability Assessment Test)
The PedMIDAS tool is for use with children ages 4 to 18. It is a way to characterize the impact migraine headaches have on children. It is a valuable tool for reporting information to your child's health care provider.

Is Working At My Computer Causing My Headaches?
An article that outlines some of the issues surrounding computer use and headache

Cluster Headache Information
This patient handout from the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) provides useful information about cluster headaches.

PedMIDAS (Pediatric Migraine Disability Assessment Test)
The PedMIDAS tool is for use with children ages 4 to 18. It is a way to characterize the impact migraine headaches have on children. It is a valuable tool for reporting information to your child's health care provider.

Diagnosing a Migraine Using a Mnemonic or Three-Item Screening Test
Headache is a common complaint in primary care clinics and can be frustrating and burdensome especially if you are misdiagnosed. The POUND mnemonic and ID migraine questionnaire are simple tests used by many primary care physicians to help distinguish migraine from other types of headaches.

Headache and Fever
Headaches are common and usually nothing to worry about. But, if you have a fever in addition to your headache, than its a good idea to talk with your healthcare provider to make sure there is nothing more serious going on. Fever and headache can be a potentially dangerous combination. Here we review the possible causes of headache and fever.

Coin-Shaped Head Pain
Nummular headache or coin-shaped headache is one rare type of headache that causes a small, circular area, like the shape of a coin, of sharp or stabbing pain on the head. Read more about this unusual type of headache.

Spinning out of “Head” Control
Vestibular migraine affects up to 1% of the population. The vertigo patients with vestibular migraine experience is different from the vertigo one may experience during a migraine aura, in that the vertigo typically does not last 5-60 minutes like an aura and does not usually precede the head pain. Let’s take a closer look at this somewhat rare medical condition.

Headache and Fever: Part II
Headaches are common and range from a nuisance to a debilitating state that typically resolve with rest, medication, sleep, or time depending on the type of headache. But, if you have a fever in addition to your headache, than it's a good idea to talk with your doctor to make sure there is nothing more serious going on like an infection or non-infectious cause. Read more about potential noninfectious causes of headache and fever.

Headaches During Pregnancy

What is My Headache?

Hangover Headache
Headache is a common symptom of hangovers. Learn more about the delayed alcohol-induced headache or hangover headache and what you can do to treat it.

Misdiagnosing a Subarachnoid Hemorrhage

Cocktail Headache
Learn more about the cocktail headache, also known formally as an immediate alcohol-induced headache.

What is a Chronic Tension-Type Headache?
Learn about the definition and treatment options available for chronic tension-type headache, also known as a stress headache or muscle contraction headache.

Migraine with Aura
Learn more about the definition, diagnosis, and treatment of migraine with aura.

Headache and eye problem
Lear about medical conditions that cause both headache and eye problems like eye pain or loss of vision

What is a Hypnic Headache?
Learn about the basics including the diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment of a hypnic headache.


Learn more about the diagnosis and treatment of a sleep apnea headache, a headache disorder that occurs upon awakening in the morning.


Learn about a couple potential diagnoses if you have both a headache and a rash.

What is a Whiplash Headache?

Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever
Learn about a tick-borne illness Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever that causes a severe headache.

Headache from Swimming
Learn about headaches associated with swimming and wearing goggles and how you can prevent or treat them.

What is a Brain Tumor Headache?
Learn about exactly what a headache from a brain tumor feels like.

10 Facts About Brain Tumors
Learn about brain tumors and the type of headache it is associated with in this question and answer format.

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