Objectives.— To evaluate why patients do not discuss their headaches with their doctors and to compare these patients with those who seek medical assistance for headache.
Method.— Cross-sectional study. A total of 200 consecutive patients attended by family doctors had their complaints registered. Those with headaches were interviewed. A semi-structured questionnaire, Headache Impact Test and Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale were used.
Results.— Fifty-two percent had headaches. Ten percent sought medical assistance for headache, 11% already had received some form of medical assistance for headache. There was no association between headache disability and seeking a doctor for headache. Patients that did not seek a doctor for headache had a higher prevalence of tension-type headache (59.6% vs 22.1%; P < .01), a lower prevalence of migraine with aura (32.3% vs 40.5%; P < .01), headache intensity (5.4 vs 6.8; P = .01) and frequency (4.2 × 7.4 days/month; P < .01). Fifty-two percent of them needed preventive treatment. Most of them did not seek a doctor because their headaches were mild or received relief from painkillers.
Conclusions.— Patients who did not seek medical assistance for headache had more tension-type headache, less migraine with aura, lower headache intensity and frequency, but the same headache disability. Most of them needed preventive treatment and did not seek doctors because their headache was mild or received relief from painkillers.