Questions to Ask Your Doctor About Your Headaches

So you’ve finally scheduled a doctor’s appointment to discuss your headaches. Now what?

Headaches come in all shapes and sizes. That’s why it’s important to arm yourself with knowledge about the different types of headaches. And when you feel as though your head pain is occurring more frequently than usual, or is more severe, it might be time to see your doctor.

 

It’s important to get a definitive headache diagnosis (especially if you suffer from migraines*). Once that appointment is on the books, prep for your visit by thinking through a few key questions you’d like to get answers on.

Preparing For Your Doctor’s Visit

You will have a limited amount of time with your physician, so prepare in advance for your appointment. Dr. Keri Peterson, an internist in New York City, explains that it’s relatively easy: “The main thing is paying attention to your symptoms, so you can describe them accurately.”

Therefore, be ready to discuss the following:

  • Where your headache pain is located
  • What your headaches feel like
  • Things that aggravate your headaches
  • Things that relieve your headaches
  • When you first experienced symptoms
  • How often your headaches happen
  • If you have other symptoms associated with your headaches such as nausea, visual changes, slurred speech, fever, or weakness

Dr. Peterson points out that you also need to know your family history, as migraines can be hereditary. You should be prepared to discuss your own medical history. Also be open and honest about any tobacco or alcohol use. “Those things can contribute to the cause of your headaches,” says Dr. Peterson. “So don’t feel that you can’t share that with your doctor, that’s actually an important part of your history.”

 

Lastly, it’s not a bad idea to jot down the medications you are currently taking, including over-the-counter ones. “Don’t presume that just because it’s over the counter that it doesn’t ‘count,’” says Dr. Peterson. “Supplements count, too.”

Questions to Ask Your Doctor

Once you’ve provided your doctor with your medical history and he or she has completed the exam, these questions may help you work with your physician to manage your headaches:

  • What do you think is causing my headaches?
  • What tests might I need to diagnose my headaches?
  • Could any medications I’m taking be making my headaches worse?
  • How often can I expect to experience my headaches?
  • What are my treatment options?
    •  Is over-the-counter medication sufficient?
    •  If I need a prescription, why do I need that medication?
    •  What side effects might I experience from my medication?
    •  Should I treat my headaches only when they occur, or should I take medication every day?
  • How can I tell if a headache I experience is dangerous?
  • How can I identify my headache triggers?
  • How can I prevent my headaches?
  • Are there lifestyle changes I can make to help with my headaches?

As you prep for your appointment, you might jot down your questions to help steer the conversation — and dig deeper than just your basic “why?”  Says Dr. Peterson: “I get a lot of ‘whys’ – and we don’t always know a lot of the ‘whys’ in medicine. We know how to treat it, but we don’t always necessarily know why it’s happening.”

*See a doctor for a diagnosis of migraines and migraine relief options.

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