Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
If you have typical migraines or a family history of migraine headaches, your doctor will likely diagnose the condition on the basis of your medical history and a physical exam. But if your headaches are unusual, severe or sudden, your doctor may recommend a variety of tests to rule out other possible causes for your pain.
- Computerized tomography (CT). This imaging procedure uses a series of computer-directed X-rays that provides a cross-sectional view of your brain. This helps doctors diagnose tumors, infections and other possible medical problems that may be causing your headaches.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). MRIs use radio waves and a powerful magnet to produce very detailed cross-sectional views of your brain. MRI scans help doctors diagnose tumors, strokes, aneurysms, neurological diseases and other brain abnormalities. An MRI can also be used to examine the blood vessels that supply the brain.
- Spinal tap (lumbar puncture). If your doctor suspects an underlying condition, such as meningitis — an inflammation of the membranes (meninges) and cerebrospinal fluid surrounding your brain and spinal cord — he or she may recommend a spinal tap (lumbar puncture). In this procedure, a thin needle is inserted between two vertebrae in your lower back to extract a sample of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) for laboratory analysis.
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