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Diagnosing Headache in Primary Care: Red Flags

Jun 07, 2022

Patients who come into primary care for a headache are often worried that it’s something very serious – and it’s your job to know whether it is or not. Many headaches are nothing overly serious, but as a new grad, it can be hard to know just how concerned to be and what to do with your concern.

Diagnosing Headache Red Flags in Primary Care

Let’s build your confidence and demystify some of the grey areas of headaches. In this video, we’ll cover:

✅ A simple tool that you can use to guide your visit, assessment, and plan

✅ Specific headache red flags, and what to do if you encounter them

✅ When to worry and what to worry about

✅ When to refer patients out

Headaches in a primary care setting can be confusing when you are getting started, but the more you see and the more you manage, the more clarity that you will gain. Use these tips to prepare for your next headache patient and be confident in your assessment, treatment, and referral. 

SNOOP10 acronym:

  • Systemic symptoms including fever
  • Neoplasm history
  • Neurologic deficit (including decreased consciousness)
  • Onset is sudden or abrupt
  • Older age (onset after age 50 years)
  • Pattern change or recent onset of new headache
  • Positional headache
  • Precipitated by sneezing, coughing, or exercise
  • Papilledema
  • Progressive headache and atypical presentations
  • Pregnancy or puerperium
  • Painful eye with autonomic features
  • Post-traumatic onset of headache
  • Pathology of the immune system such as HIV
  • Painkiller (analgesic) overuse (eg, medication overuse headache) or new drug at onset of headache

Link to headache diary:

(FYI: to slow down the audio speed, hit the gear symbol in the bottom right corner and change it to .75x or .5x. Closed captions are also located at the bottom R  corner of the video.)

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