Everyone gets headaches. But when you experience headaches that are severe, ongoing or disrupting your life, you may be asking “When should I see a neurologist for my headaches?”
There is almost an endless list of headache causes and triggers, which means your odds of finding an effective treatment for your headaches is very good! Seeing a neurologist for your headaches can get you on the path to finally finding relief because a neurologist gets to the root of what’s causing your headaches. Whether you suffer from migraines, tension headaches, sinus headaches, or a combination, seeing a neurologist can open the door for proper treatment so you can finally reclaim your life from the grips of ongoing headache pain.
Some headaches cannot wait for a neurologist appointment
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms with a headache, head to the emergency room right away. Headaches with the following symptoms can be life-threatening.
- Difficulty speaking
- Trouble understanding what other people are saying
- Slurred speech
- Numbness or weakness on one side of the face or body
- Sudden double vision
- Blurry vision
- Uneven pupil size
- Trouble standing
- Sudden vomiting
When to see a doctor for headaches
Not every common headache requires a trip to the neurologist. If you have a headache that you can treat with a couple of over-the-counter pain relievers such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, and you only have them every so often, seeing a neurologist for your headaches probably isn’t necessary.
But if you find that your headaches are disrupting your life, and you’re experiencing any of the following, it’s a good idea to make an appointment with your doctor to discover the cause and find adequate treatment for your headaches.
- You wake up with a headache first thing in the morning regularly
- Your headaches last more than two days
- Your headache does not respond to over-the-counter pain relievers
- Your headache pain is made worse by activity
- You experience vision changes with headaches
- Your headache is accompanied by a seizure
Neurologist tests for headaches
When you see your neurologist for headaches, your first neurologist appointment for headaches will begin by answering questions about your symptoms, your lifestyle, and your medical history. Your doctor may also order imaging tests such as those listed below to help visualize the internal structures of your brain and look for any abnormalities that may be contributing to your headaches.
CT Scan – a CT snap uses magnets to visualize the bones, tissues, and blood vessels in your head and neck. Your neurologist can use a CT scan to see if there are any structural issues, spinal issues, bleeding, or tumors that could be causing your headaches.
MRI – An MRI is more powerful than a CT scan and can more precisely show the internal structures of the body. If you’ve recently incurred an injury or your doctor suspects a tumor could be causing your headaches, an MRI may be ordered.
EEG – An EEG measures brain waves. EEGs can be used to diagnose brain disorders such as epilepsy, brain damage, sleep disorders, and brain dysfunction that could be causing headaches.
X-ray – Your doctor may order an x-ray of your sinus cavity to determine if sinus issues are contributing to your headaches.
Labwork – Your neurologist may order lab work such as urinalysis and a complete workup to help determine if an untreated underlying condition such as infection or diabetes is causing your headaches.
What to bring to your first neurologist appointment for headaches
After you’ve gotten a referral to a neurologist for your headaches, you want to make the most of your first appointment so you can get to the bottom of your headaches and find relief faster. Being prepared for your first neurologist appointment is a big step in the right direction.
Make sure to bring a comprehensive list of:
- Your headache symptoms, including any visual disturbances, nausea, location of the pain, etc.
- Schedule of when the headaches seem to occur. Are they every day? Only on weekends? After large meals? At a certain time of the month or year?
- Possible triggers for your headaches, such as time of year, foods, alcohol, stress, time of day, etc.
- Family history of headaches and other medical issues
- An up-to-date list of your medications, plus any vitamins or supplements you take
When should you go to a neurologist for migraines?
Many migraine sufferers accept their migraines as a cruel twist of fate that they have to live with. This is simply not true. There is a lot a neurologist can do to help ease migraine symptoms and reduce the frequency and intensity of migraine headaches.
Migraines can be caused by a variety of factors, including genetics and things in your environment such as lighting, foods, menstrual cycle, stress, sleep patterns, and more. Seeing a neurologist for your migraine headaches can help you find the causes of your migraines so you can be treated effectively.
Your headache neurologist will use a combination of medical imagery, lab tests, and possibly other tests such as eye exams and spinal taps to find the root cause of your migraine symptoms. Once the cause of your migraines is uncovered, your treatments may include:
- Pain relievers – Over-the-counter or prescription pain relievers
- Migraine-specific medications – Several migraine-specific medications are available that work on specific mechanisms in the brain and reduce or eliminate migraine symptoms.
- Opioid medications – For patients who are not able to take migraine-specific medications, opioid medications can help. These medications are highly addictive, however, and should be avoided if possible.
- Nausea medications – Migraines and nausea often go hand in hand. Anti-nausea medications can quell nausea symptoms and help the overall migraine experience feel less terrible.
Ready to see a neurologist for your headaches?
Premier Neurology helps patients who regularly experience migraines, tension headaches, sinus headaches and more finally find the relief they need. Schedule your first appointment with a neurologist at Premier Neurology today.