While headaches are very painful, it’s rare that they are caused by a serious medical problem. If you or your physician are worried about a serious problem, an imaging test can rule out uncommon but serious medical problems such as a brain tumor, a blood clot, or an infection. Imaging tests won’t help you manage your pain. And they may not change the type of treatment you get for your headaches unless they find a serious problem. The two imaging tests that can be used to evaluate your headaches are:
- A CT scan
This scan uses X-rays to make detailed pictures of the inside of your head. During the test, your body is positioned so that your head is inside the CT scanner, which is a large doughnut-shaped machine. The test usually takes only a few minutes.
- An MRI
A test that uses a magnet and radio waves to make detailed pictures of the inside of your head. It gives more information than X-rays or a CT scan. During the test, you lie inside a machine that has a strong magnet. The test usually takes 30 to 60 minutes.
Keep in mind that having an imaging test won’t help you manage your pain. And it may not change the type of treatment you get for your headaches unless it finds a more serious problem.
In most cases, you won’t need to have an imaging test to look for the cause of your headaches. Doctors can usually make a diagnosis and recommend treatment based on your symptoms and by doing a physical exam. Your doctor may order one of these tests to rule out uncommon but serious medical problems such as a brain tumor, a blood clot, an infection, or an aneurysm in the wall of a blood vessel in your brain. But most headaches aren’t caused by these more serious problems.
When headaches are a sign of a more serious medical problem or a head injury, you may have other symptoms along with your headache. You may vomit, feel dizzy or weak, or have numbness and tingling. Or you may have problems with your vision and coordination.
Have you been struggling with chronic headaches? Find a primary care physician near you and start working towards a solution!
Source: Healthwise, “Should I have Imaging Tests To Find Out What’s Causing My Headaches?”