Preparing for your appointmentBy Mayo Clinic staff
Thunderclap headaches are often first diagnosed by an emergency room physician. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to a doctor who specializes in the brain and nervous system (neurologist).
If you have time before your appointment, it's a good idea to be well prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and to know what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to your headaches.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, vitamins and supplements you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to take in all the information you get during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time with your doctor. For thunderclap headaches, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my headaches?
- Are there other possible causes for my headaches?
- What tests do I need?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- What is the best course of action?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
- I have these other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there brochures or other printed material I can take with me? What websites do you recommend?
Don't hesitate to ask questions that occur to you.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, including:
- When was your first thunderclap headache?
- Have your headaches been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your headaches?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your headaches?
- What, if anything, appears to worsen your headaches?
- Olesen J, et al. The international classification of headache disorders. International Headache Society. http://ihs-classification.org/en/02_klassifikation/02_teil1/04.06.00_other.html. Accessed Oct. 19, 2011.
- Approach to the patient with headache. The Merck Manuals: The Merck Manual for Healthcare Professionals. http://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic_disorders/headache/approach_to_the_patient_with_headache.html. Accessed Oct. 23, 2011.
- Goadsby PJ, et al. Headache. In: Longo DL, et al. Harrison's Online. 18th ed. New York, N.Y.: The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc. 2011. http://www.accessmedicine.com/content.aspx?aID=9094791. Accessed Oct. 23, 2011.
- Headache: Hope through research. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/headache/detail_headache.htm. Accessed Oct. 23, 2011.
- DuPont SA, et al. Thunderclap headache and normal computed tomographic results: Value of cerebrospinal fluid analysis. Mayo Clinic Proceedings. 2008;83:1326.
- Savitz SI, et al. Thunderclap headache with normal CT and lumbar puncture: Further investigations are unnecessary: For. Stroke. 2008;39:1392.
- Tarshish S, et al. Teaching case presentation: Primary thunderclap headache. Headache. 2009;49:1249.
- Mistry N, et al. Thunderclap headache. Practical Neurology. 2009;9:294.
- Neurological diagnostic tests and procedures. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/misc/diagnostic_tests.htm. Accessed Oct. 23, 2011.
- Headache Classification Subcommittee of the International Headache Society. The international classification of headache disorders: 2nd ed. Cephalalgia. 2004;24(suppl):9.