Under What Circumstances Should I See A Doctor About My Headaches?

Dr. Kaniecki answers the question: 'When Do Headaches Require A Doctor?'

ByABC News
November 11, 2008, 5:06 PM

— -- Question: Under What Circumstances Should I See A Doctor About My Headaches?

Answer: Headaches are universal. Nearly everyone in the population by the time they go from birth to death will have experienced a headache. And most often, they represent something benign-a tension headache, or in many cases, a mild form of migraine.

But what signals worsening headaches, what signals concerning headaches to us, would be, first of all, headaches that progress in frequency or intensity; they are changing in pattern, they're getting worse, either the number of days per month you're having the headache or perhaps the severity of the individual headaches.

A second thing that makes us very concerned are headaches that are associated with neurologic features-numbness, tingling, weakness, slurred speech, confusion-certainly should dictate a conversation with a doctor.

A third cause, or third issue that one might be concerned about, would be headaches that seem to change in the way they affect you and your function.

So if you're disabled by them, if they cause you to miss work, if they cause children to miss school, a disability is seen with the headache. Even if they're infrequent, even if you have one per month or one every other month, that would be concerning enough to go see a physician, perhaps not because it's something severe, but perhaps because more importantly that we could provide better treatment options that are by prescription rather than over-the-counter.

So worsening frequency, worsening intensity, headaches that are associated with unusual features, neurologic features that are concerning, and then finally, headaches that are disabling in nature, that cause you to miss work or school, would perhaps be the key signs to seek attention from a clinician.

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