Healthy living

Headache wrongly diagnosed by some doctors

Headache wrongly diagnosed by some doctors Affect more than 10 million people in the UK

People who experience headaches and migraines might not be receiving correct and timely diagnoses from their GPs or other healthcare professionals, according to health watchdog NICE.

More than 10 million people in the UK suffer from headaches, making headaches one of the most common health complaints. Migraines alone cause more than 100,000 people to miss work or school every day in the UK, the National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence said.

For the first time, NICE is drawing up guidance for GPs on how to diagnose the three most common types of headache - tension, migraine and cluster.

Professor Mark Baker, Director of the Centre for Clinical Practice at NICE said: "Despite headaches being the most common neurological problem presented to GPs and neurologists, many people who experience them aren't receiving accurate or timely diagnoses.

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

"Once published, we hope our guidance will support healthcare professionals in recognising and diagnosing the most common types of primary headache and reassure their patients that other possible causes have been excluded."

Among the draft recommendations is that GPs should recognise "that headache is a valid medical disorder that has a significant impact on the person and their family."

GPs should also be aware that overuse of medication overuse can cause headache in people whose headaches developed or worsened while taking certain drugs for three or more months, the document said.

The draft guidance also outlines the different combinations of drugs thought to be most effective for treating migraine and other types of headache.

Professor Baker said: "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.

"Once we publish our final guideline later this summer, we hope its implementation will provide more effective and faster-acting pain relief and reduce unnecessary referrals and revisits. We welcome all feedback from our stakeholders during this public consultation."

This article was published on Thu 26 April 2012

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