Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
If you have chronic or recurrent headaches, your doctor may try to pinpoint the type and cause of your headaches using these approaches:
Your pain description
Your doctor can learn a lot about your headaches from a description of your pain. Be sure to include these details:
- The characteristics of your pain. Does your pain have a pulsating quality? Or is it constant and dull? Sharp or stabbing?
- The intensity of your pain. A good indicator of the severity of your headache is how much you're able to function while you have it. Are you incapacitated? Or are you still able to work? Do your headaches wake you up or prevent you from sleeping?
- The location of your pain. Do you feel pain all over your head? On only one side of your head? Or just your forehead or behind your eyes? This information may help your doctor determine the best way to treat your headache.
If you have unusual or complicated headaches, your doctor may order tests to rule out serious causes of head pain, such as a tumor or an aneurysm. Two common tests used to image your brain include:
- Computerized tomography (CT). A CT scan is a diagnostic imaging procedure that uses a series of computer-directed X-rays to provide a comprehensive view of your brain.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans. An MRI doesn't use X-rays. Instead, it combines a magnetic field, radio waves and computer technology to produce clear images.
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