Are headaches taken seriously enough?

Experts are urging health professionals to treat common headaches as a serious medical problem

There are 10 million people in the UK suffering from headaches making the problem the most common health complaint.

But despite the frequency of patients seeking medical advice for headaches and migraines, they are not receiving the correct diagnosis or treatment according to the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.

‘Despite headaches being the most common neurological problem presented to GPs and neurologists, many people who experience them aren’t receiving accurate or timely diagnosis,’ says Professor Mark Baker, from NICE.

‘Also concerns about the possible underlying causes need to be appropriately managed in order to avoid unnecessary investigations, which can lead to delays in people receiving adequate pain relief, for what can be an extremely disabling conditions.’

New guidance from NICE hopes to support health professionals in recognising and diagnosing the three most common types of headaches – migraine, tension and cluster – to reassure patients that other possible causes have been excluded.

‘Migraines are a major cause of absence from work or school and can cause much discomfort, so it is important the NHS offers treatments that are able to relieve pain as early as possible,’ says Professor Baker.

The guidelines, published later this summer, hope to reduce the number or referrals and revisits to GPs and provide faster, more effective treatment for headache sufferers.

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