Women’s Headache Interview & Questionnaire
Edward Lichten, M.D.,PC
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INTRODUCTION: From the first days of school we were told "if you give your patient enough time, she will tell you what is the problem that brought her to your office!"
What we have tried to do at our facility, is to give our patients an opportunity to talk about all the problems that trouble them. Before the interview they are given a simplified general history form to fill-in background information and "check-off" potential medical problems. A copy of this "admission form" is included for your review in Appendix A, page1. Surprisingly, one of the most often "checked-off" item in our gynecological practice was headaches!
In an effort to better treat our patients, I have become the "patient consultant" who is responsible for the initial history and patient education. We have confirmed, just as others have previously, that the vast majority of headache patients can be adequately diagnosed by history alone without extensive diagnostic testing and multiple drug trials.
Remember, that in the office practice, we find the emergency management of the acute headache case is extremely rare. Focusing specifically on the chronic headache condition, we find these headaches fall into three general categories: [more than 100%- mixed patterns]
TAKING the initial history, my initial questions collect the general information: the demographics, previous physician and diagnostic evaluations and previous medication use. This is no different from any standard history.
TAKING the headache history, the questions focus on differentiating the various factors contributing to headache: specifically searching for Muscle factors and migraine factors.
Following this article, is an "Initial Headache History Questionnaire" marked Insert-1 and "Additional Headache Questions." The latter is oriented to focus on differentiating between muscle factors and migraine factors in headaches, even though they may co-exist.
To read a specific article about migraine, emergency treatment, hormonally influenced migraine, muscle tension, cervicogenic ad/or analgesic rebound headaches, GO TO the HEADACHE HOME PAGE
Migraine: Unilateral: one sided 75% of the time, wakes her Periodic: periods of time without headache Pulsating: throbbing, sharp, stabbing pain Systemic: nausea, vomiting, seeks dark room WITH AURA: 20% have warning sign or symptom COMPLICATED migraine: neurologic symptoms Partial loss of vision: hemianopsia, tunnel Numbness, tingling, loss of speech, hearing, balance Muscle-type: Unilateral (one side worse) Daily: associated with chronic analgesic use Achy: able to function with medication Rare systemic changes: no neurologic sequelae Mixed: both
These muscle contraction and migraine types are differentiated by location from:
Facial pain: Runny nose, aching jaws, ear pain, change hearing And, whenever there is chronic disease, there are always psychological factors of depression that affect the individual. Some symptoms of depression to look for are:
Depression: Patient reports a decreased self worth, inability to function, loss of coping skills, change in sleep patterns, decreased or increased appetite, decreased sexual interest.
Look now at the initial headache questions on the following pages. The questions now take on a new focus, when you recognize the major types of headaches.
IN TAKING A HEADACHE HISTORY:
Many might consider a gynecological practice that focuses on treating migraine to be unique. But since 80% of all headaches occur in women during the reproductive years, there must be hormonal triggers to her headache entity. Some are the hormonal fluctuations that occur around the menstrual cycle, the use of oral contraceptives, the first trimester of pregnancy and the use of interrupted exogenous estrogens during menopause. One fifth of the women who suffer from migraines, in fact, experience them exclusively in connection with their menstruation. This is evident when considering a Great Britain study where of 215 women on oral contraception, one-third developed headaches for the first time. Of the 75 women who had suffered from migraine before using the pill, half reported a worsening of their migraine attacks.
In light of the fact that these hormonal attributes to migraine are almost entirely ignored, we must specifically note those questions that imply a hormonal component to headache.
Women make up 75% of all headache sufferers who visit physicians and 80-90% of all who suffer with migraine. We have found that more than 50% of their migraines are "hormonal" and poorly responsive to standard medication. They are the most difficult pat ients to adequately treat.
Patient education includes consideration of the dietary restriction of a P.M.S. diet as a initial treatment for migraine. Please consider the following:
SODIUM: The effect of estrogen in the pre-menstrual phase is associated with fluid retention. Women feel bloated, complain of breast tenderness and find that rings get tight. Thus, it is suggested that women eliminate foods high in sodium to ease flui d retention prior to menses. Diuretics that lower cerebral spinal fluid pressure are preferred. (Spirolactone, Acetazolamide)
HYPOGLYCEMIA: As estrogen levels fluctuate within the luteal phase of the menstrual cycle, so, too, do blood sugar levels. Thus, women become hypoglycemic as they approach menses. To reduce the effects of a hypoglycemia headache, it is best to eat at re gular intervals - six small meals a day - and to avoid foods that are high in simple sugars.
And the DIETARY TRIGGERS for the Premenstrual Syndrome are the same as for MIGRAINE!
The following foods may contribute to or cause headaches:
1. (20%) CHOCOLATE/CAFFEINE: Caffeine containing substances can cause headaches because they contain phenylethylamine. However, since they also constrict blood vessels, headache sufferers may use them on a regular basis as a preventative. With continually use, blood vessels adapt to a semi-constricted state. Then, when the substance is withdrawn, blood vessels will dilate, causing considerable headache pain. Victims of tension headache find the continually intake of dietary or caffeine in tablet for m (often compounded with aspirin, phenacetin and butabarbital) temporally helpful. However, in both migraine and muscle headaches, stopping the intake of caffeine drugs can cause withdrawal headaches.
2. (20%) DAIRY PRODUCTS: Cheese contains tyramine which may have a direct effect on blood vessels. Dairy products often contain high fat and high sodium content and may cause fluid retention. As such, fluid may be retained in the brain and cause a feeling of pressure in the head.
ICE CREAM: Holding ice cream or ice in the mouth or swallowing it quickly may cause a localized pain in the palate. This is felt to be a reflex secondary to cooling or a glossopharyngeal nerve stimulation. Common in patients with migraine.
3. (30%) ALCOHOL: HANGOVER: Alcohol is a dilator of blood vessels. Some wines and other alcoholic beverages also contain tyramine, another potent vasodilator. Red wine is especially high in histamine and may trigger headaches where white wine may not. The throbbing hangover headache is more likely the result of acetaldehyde and acetate -breakdown products of alcohol - circulating in the blood and affecting arteries in the skull by the release of prostaglandins. That is why coffee or tea (the caffeine helps constrict blood vessels) along with aspirin or ibuprofen are the usual remedies. Dalessio suggests fructose to accelerate the metabolism of alcohol and others suggest ibuprofen (Advil, Motrim, Anaprox) an hour before.[although they increase alcohol 's "punch."]
4. SALTS: CHINESE FOODS/MSG: Sufferers of this complain of pressure or tightness in the face followed by a headache within twenty-five minutes after eating Chinese foods. The cause is felt to be related to MSG (monosodium glutamate) which is widely use d as a food additive, especially in oriental foods. MSG dilates blood vessels and people who experience headaches related to it are usually susceptible to migraine and other vascular headaches as well.
HOT DOG/NITRITES: Some people develop headaches after eating hot dogs or other cured meats. These types of headaches result from the sodium nitrite used to treat the meat. Nitrites dilate blood vessels, and even the minuscule amount found in cured mea ts may cause headaches.
5. ADDITIVES: ASPARTAME/NUTRASWEET: Aspartame (Trade Name Nutrasweet) is a sugar substitute 200 times sweeter than sugar. It is found in many carbonated diet beverages and other diet/diabetic foods as well. Since its introduction to products in 1981, t here have been reports of headaches after consuming aspartame. Foods and beverages containing should be avoided if a headache occurs shortly after consuming such.
6. FASTING/HYPOGLYCEMIA: Lowering of the blood sugar level (hypoglycemia) can trigger migraines, and a dull pressure headache often accompanies any prolonged fast. A regular morning headache may be caused by low blood sugar. Similarly, when a person s susceptible to hypoglycemia eats sugar, the pancreas is stimulated and blood sugar levels rise rapidly; then they drop abruptly. As such, a headache may occur.
7. GUM-CHEWING: Of all products consumed, gum is the least suspected cause of headache. However, if a gum-chewing headache is to occur, pain usually is located in the front and side of the head. The apparent cause is the chewing of large amounts of gu m -two to three packs per day - for continuous periods of time. The constant grinding process involved in gum chewing produces sustained contractions of the jaw muscles. These muscles become stiff when used constantly and a headache may result.
8. Muscle type headaches can develop from poor sleep pattern. An old mattress or a waterbed may offer little back support. Using more than one small pillow may aggravate neck muscle tension. Having scoliosis or uneven leg length or performing a specific activity such as lifting or sitting in front of a monitor or using a phone may aggravate muscle tension producing chronic headaches. Patients may report more headaches on weekends when they sleep late or on vacations. They awake with the headaches after sleeping poorly.
9. Allergy type headaches can be triggered by an old mattress or feather pillow with mites. Mold may be present in an older home. Treatment may be as simple as installing a humidifier and air cleaner, removing plants, and placing mattress and pillows in plastic (or change mattress, pillows). Water beds must be treated chemically and filled for increased firmness
10. Medications: Certain common medications are associated with headache including: tetracycline (Minocin) commonly used for acne, yellow dye (in Synthroid .1mg), certain blood pressure medications including Procardia, and cholesterol lowering agents like Lopid. Carefully record all medications, including over-the-counter preparations. Analgesic rebound can occur from the daily use of caffeine, aspirin, acetomeniphen (Tylenol), and ibuprofen (Advil, Nuprin,etc). Check the PDR for prescription side effects that may include headache. If possible, discontinue or substitute the possible offending medication for 3 to 4 weeks. In our office, we will substitute two Synthroid .05mg daily (white) for on Synthroid .1 (yellow). We stop Minocin and substitute Erythrocette facial wipes. Try to eliminate the cause of headaches before prescribing additional headache medication. For a more complete list of drugs that may induce headaches, consult the PDR.
In summary, migraine is characterized by 1)unilateral 2)pulsating quality 3)severity 4) periodicity [like premenstrually] and 5) nausea/ vomiting, photophobia and phonophobia. Migraines are by nature "severe," yet represent less than one-third of all "headaches." Muscle contraction headaches can be less severe but occur much more frequently; 50% of all headache occurrences. And up to 50% of migraine patients have muscle components as well. Other specific factors, including the jaw, sinus, teeth and intracranla structual anomalies make up significantly less than 10% of chronic headaches.
But it is most important to understand that 90 percent of the time, the correct diagnosis of headache type will be made by an adequate history. Hopefully, the information presented to you will make the "headache history taking" more productive.
|Revised: January 1, 2007|