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Guideline

Headaches in over 12s: diagnosis and management

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Last updated:1st Sep 2012

This guideline covers advice on the diagnosis and management of tension-type headache, migraine (including migraine with aura and menstrual-related migraine), cluster headache and medication overuse headache in young people (aged 12 years and older) and adults. It aims to improve the recognition and management of headaches, with more targeted treatment to improve the quality of life for people with headaches, and to reduce unnecessary investigations.

Headaches are one of the most common neurological problems presented to GPs and neurologists.
They are painful and debilitating for individuals, an important cause of absence from work or school and a substantial burden on society.

Headache disorders are classified as primary or secondary. The aetiology of primary headaches is not well understood and they are classified according to their clinical pattern. The most common primary headache disorders are tension-type headache, migraine and cluster headache. Secondary headaches are attributed to underlying disorders and include, for example, headaches associated with medication overuse, giant cell arteritis, raised intracranial pressure and infection. Medication overuse headache most commonly occurs in those taking medication for a primary headache disorder. The major health and social burden of headaches is caused by primary headache disorders and medication overuse headache.

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