Lege Artis Medicinae

[Headache in everyday medical practice]

ERTSEY Csaba

NOVEMBER 20, 2010

Lege Artis Medicinae - 2010;20(11)

[Headache is one of the most common complaints in clinical practice. The International Headache Society’s current classification distinguishes two major categories of headache: primary and secondary (symptomatic) headache types. The former types, which account for the majority of headaches, are caused by a functional disorder in a structurally intact nervous system and are characterised by stereotypical attacks that resolve - in most cases - spontaneously after a certain period, the duration of which is characteristic for each headache type. The diagnosis of primary headaches is based on a detailed history of the attacks and negative results on a neurological examination. At the first presentation of the patient, it should be determined whether a potentially serious or life-threatening condition might be present, whether the type of the patient’s headache can be ascertained according to the IHS’s criteria, and what kind of examinations are needed to establish the correct diagnosis. A detailed history is the cornerstone of the diagnosis of primary headaches and it cannot be substituted by instrumental examinations. The use of imaging and other examination methods is necessary for the diagnosis of secondary headaches, but if the patient’s history and the results of the neurological investigation are fully consistent with a primary headache type, instrumental examinations are unlikely to provide any additional information. Although establishing the correct diagnosis is often time-consuming, it is necessary for the efficient treatment.]

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