Headaches and Migraines: When to see a Neurologist

migraine

Headaches are common. Almost everyone experiences them from time to time, and some people experience them regularly. So how do you know when it’s time to see a neurologist for a headache or a migraine?

When a headache could be an emergency

If you have any of the following symptoms along with a headache, call 911 or go to the nearest emergency room immediately. These symptoms may be a sign of a stroke or other life-threatening problem.

  • The worst headache of your life
  • Confusion
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding others who are speaking
  • Slurred speech or a hoarse voice
  • Numbness or weakness in the face or extremities, especially if it’s on one side
  • Tremors or clumsiness
  • Vision problems, like difficulty seeing or double vision
  • Unequal pupil size
  • A drooping eyelid on one side
  • Inability to stand even if holding onto a stationary object
  • Sudden or severe vomiting without known cause

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When to call a neurologist

If you have severe headaches or accompanying symptoms that are disrupting your life, it might be a good idea to see a neurologist. Consider making an appointment with a neurologist if:

  • Your headache is continuous for more than a day or two
  • Your headaches tend to come on suddenly
  • Your head pain is worsened by straining
  • Your headaches start early in the morning
  • You’re experiencing changes in vision
  • You’ve had a seizure along with your headaches

Tests your doctor may perform for headaches

When you see a neurologist for a headache, he or she will likely take a medical history, perform a physical exam, and do some neurological tests. The tests will vary depending upon your symptoms and may include:

  • CT scan – Your doctor may order a CT scan of your head to help diagnose any structural problems, bleeding, spinal problems, or tumors that could be causing your headaches.
  • MRI – An MRI may be done if you have had a recent head injury that could be causing your headaches or if your doctor suspects a structural problem or tumor.
  • EEG – EEG is short for electroencephalogram, which is a test that measures brain waves. It uses electrodes placed on the scalp to measure brain activity. It is helpful in diagnosing epilepsy and other brain disorders, such as stroke, inflammation, brain damage from a head injury, sleep disorders, and brain dysfunction.
  • Eye exams – A neurologist may perform eye exams to check for signs of a concussion or neurological damage that could be causing your headaches.
  • Spinal tap – A spinal tap is also known as a lumbar puncture or CSF test. During this test, doctors remove a small sample of spinal fluid to assess the color, consistency, and quality of the spinal fluid. This test can help doctors find out where there is an infection or tumor of it the patient has a disorder, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome.
  • X-ray of your sinuses – If your doctor suspects you have a sinus infection or chronic sinus problems may be causing your headaches, he or she may order x-rays of your sinuses. 
  • Lab tests – Depending on your headaches and other related symptoms, your doctor may order some lab tests, like blood tests or a urinalysis. Usually these tests are done to confirm or rule out health conditions, such as thyroid disease or diabetes, that could be contributing to your headaches.

While your doctor may be able to determine the cause of your headaches, a neurologist has the tools and tests available to diagnose and treat whatever the root cause is. 

Headache treatment at Beaumont

If you are suffering from frequent or extreme headaches or your headaches are accompanied by other symptoms, doctors at Beaumont can help. Beaumont neurologists use the latest tools to diagnose and treat neurological conditions, for patients of all ages. From acute brain injuries to chronic conditions, we are the most preferred destination for neurology services in Southeast Michigan.

Specialized centers for neurological care

Beaumont Health’s specialized neurology centers connect you with the specialists you need, in one place, at one time – whether you need a neurological exam or more specialized services. 

Call 800-633-7377 today to make an appointment to see a Beaumont neurologist.