In diagnosing headache types, a complete and accurate history of symptoms and characteristics of the headache is helpful. Patients are often asked to keep a “Headache Diary” to track information for what may be contributing to or “triggering” the headache.

A doctor may ask for information about how the headache feels and characteristics of the headaches, including:

  • Describe the type of pain and where it is located.
  • What is the severity of the pain on a scale of 1 to 10?
  • How long does the pain last?
  • How often do headaches occur?
  • Have you noticed a trigger, such as situations, food, activities or medicines preempting the headache?
  • What symptoms occur along with the headache, such as sensitivity to light and/or sound, nausea, or weakness?
  • Does anyone else in your family have headaches?
  • When did you first experience this type of headache?
  • Do you experience headaches that feel different, or do you have different types of headaches?

In diagnosing a headache patient, a physical or neurological examination may also be conducted to find signs of an underlying cause, such as:

  • Trouble with balance
  • Vision abnormalities
  • High blood pressure
  • Fatigue or muscle weakness
  • Injuries or head trauma
  • Infections
  • Malformation
  • Tumor
  • Hemorrhage

There are multiple types of headaches and many possible headache causes. Most headache patients will not require an array of extensive diagnostic testing prior to establishing a treatment plan.

To aid the doctor in the diagnosis of headaches and to rule out or confirm possible causes sometimes diagnostic tests such as an MRI are used.