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Headache Basics

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Do Children Outgrow Headaches?

Headaches may improve as children get older. The headaches may disappear and then return later in life. By junior high school, many boys who have migraines outgrow them, but in girls, migraine frequency increases because of hormone changes. Migraines in adolescent girls are three times more likely to occur than in boys.

How Are Headaches Evaluated and Diagnosed?

The good news for headache sufferers is that once a correct headache diagnosis is made, an effective treatment plan can be started.

If you have headache symptoms, the first step is to go to your family doctor. He or she will perform a complete physical exam and a headache evaluation. During the headache evaluation, your headache history and description of the headaches will be evaluated. You will be asked to describe your headache symptoms and characteristics as completely as possible. It is important to provide your doctor with a list of things that cause the headache, aggravate the headache, and things that you have done to relieve a headache. Keeping a headache diary can help your doctor diagnose your headache type.

For most headache sufferers, special diagnostic tests will not be necessary. However, a headache evaluation may include a CT scan or MRI if a structural disorder of the central nervous system is suspected. Both of these tests produce cross-sectional images of the brain that can reveal abnormal areas or problems. Skull X-rays are not helpful. An EEG (electroencephalogram) is also unnecessary unless you have experienced a loss of consciousness with a headache.

If your headache symptoms become worse or become more frequent despite treatment, ask your doctor for a referral to a specialist. Your family doctor should be able to provide the names of headache specialists. If you need more information, contact one of the organizations in the resource list for a list of member doctors in your state.

How Are Headaches Treated?

Your doctor may recommend different types of treatment to try or she may recommend further testing, or refer you to a headache specialist. You should establish a reasonable time frame with your family doctor to evaluate your headache symptoms.

The proper treatment will depend on several factors, including the type and frequency of the headache and its cause. Not all headaches require medical attention. Treatment may include education, counseling, stress management, biofeedback, and medications. The treatment prescribed for you will be tailored to meet your specific needs.

What Happens After I Start Treatment?

When your doctor starts a treatment program, keep track of the results and how the treatment program is working. Keep your scheduled follow-up appointments so your doctor can monitor your progress and make changes in the treatment program as needed.

 

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WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Ann Edmundson, MD, PhD on June 24, 2012
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