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Headache Services at UPMC in Central Pa.

Our neurologists provide expert diagnosis, treatment, and ongoing management for all types of headaches.

Why Choose UPMC in Central Pa. for Headache Treatment?

At UPMC, our caring specialists which include board-certified neurologists and advanced (specially trained) practitioners understand that frequent headaches can affect your quality of life and make it difficult for you to perform everyday activities. Our neurology specialists will provide you with an accurate diagnosis and create a personalized treatment plan that uses the latest therapies to relieve headache pain and reduce headache duration and frequency.

If your headaches are caused by another medical condition, our team members will work closely with other health care providers to coordinate your care and help you manage headache symptoms.

Diagnostic Tests for Headaches

To diagnose headaches and rule out other medical conditions, your neurologist may conduct tests, including:

  • Headache history. Your doctor will ask you questions about your headaches and your headache history, including when the headaches started, how frequently they occur, how long they last, how they feel, and where the pain is located.
    • Download our migraine/headache log and consider completing {at minimum the first page] and bring with you to your appointment to help the neurologist accurately diagnose and expedite the management of your headaches.
    • This also assists with diagnosis, management and insurance requirements for treatment options
  • Blood and urine tests. These tests can identify signs of health problems using small samples of your blood and urine.
  • Neurological exam. During a neurological exam, your doctor will evaluate your thinking and memory skills, as well as your balance, motor skills, and reflexes.
  • Imaging tests. Your doctor may order imaging exams, such as an X-ray, MRI or CT scan, to check for problems that could be causing your headaches.

Treatments for Headaches

Treatment for headaches depends on the specific cause, your symptoms, and the severity of your condition. Depending on your condition, your doctor may recommend one or more treatments, including:

  • Lifestyle and nutrition changes. Some types of headaches are caused by stress, changes in sleep patterns, certain foods, medical conditions, or other triggers. Your doctor may recommend lifestyle or nutrition changes such as reducing stress, getting plenty of sleep, or limiting certain foods or beverages to help you avoid headache triggers and manage symptoms.
  • Medications. Your doctor may recommend over-the-counter or prescription medications or supplements to relieve headache pain or prevent headache recurrence.
  • Botulinum toxin (Botox) injections. If you have chronic migraines, your neurologist may recommend Botox injections to dull headache pain or prevent future headaches. Botox injections are given in several areas of the head and neck and are repeated every 10-12 weeks.

What are the Different Types of Headaches?

Our neurology specialists treat all types of headaches, including those that are caused by another medical condition. Common types of headaches include:

  • Migraines. Migraines are recurrent, moderate-to-severe headaches that usually occur on one side of the head and can sometimes be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, or smells. Some people experience visual disturbances called auras or other sensory symptoms before they develop a migraine. Migraines are more common in women than in men and can be triggered by foods or beverages, scents, changes in sleep patterns, and bright or flashing lights. Some women experience migraines around the time of their menstrual period due to hormonal changes during their menstrual cycle.
  • Cluster headaches. Cluster headaches are severe headaches that cause stabbing pain and occur in a series, or cluster, over several days or weeks often around the same time of day. Cluster headaches only affect one side of the head and are more common in men than in women.
  • Sinus headaches. Sinus headaches usually occur along with facial pain and nasal drainage. Sometimes, migraine or tension headaches are mistaken for sinus headaches.
  • Tension headaches. Tension headaches, also called stress headaches, are the most common type of headache and can be mild to moderate in intensity. Many patients with tension headaches describe them as feeling like a tight band or clamp is squeezing their head. Tension headaches are more common in women than in men.

What are the Symptoms of Headaches?

The main symptom of a headache is pain or aching in your head, scalp, or neck. However, the intensity, location, and duration of headache pain can vary depending on the type of headache you have.

To help your neurologist make an accurate diagnosis, you should tell him or her about your specific symptoms. It may help to keep a headache journal, where you record the number of days you experience headaches, your symptoms, the duration and intensity of the headache, and any information about possible headache triggers.

Who is at Risk for Headaches?

Just about everyone experiences a headache from time to time. However, people with a family history of headaches may be more likely to experience headaches themselves. Exposure to headache triggers may also increase your risk of developing headaches. Common headache triggers include:

  • Hormonal changes in women
  • Certain foods or beverages, such as alcohol, caffeine, processed foods, or salty foods
  • Skipping meals or fasting
  • Stress
  • Sensory stimuli, such as bright lights, loud noises, and strong smells
  • Changes to sleep patterns
  • Intense physical activity
  • Environmental or weather changes
  • Medications, such as nitroglycerin or oral contraceptives

Ways to Prevent Headache Triggers

The best ways to prevent headaches are to identify and avoid headache triggers and treat underlying conditions that may be causing headaches. Other ways to prevent headaches may include:

  • Lifestyle or nutrition changes
  • Medications
  • Botox injections







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