When Should I Have Screening Tests For My Headaches?

It’s normal to get headaches from time to time. More often than not, headaches don’t pose serious problems. However, they can inflict pain especially if you get them very often.

There are different types of headaches.

– Cluster Headaches
Cluster headaches are a series of headaches that happen over a period of time.

– Migraines
Migraines are headaches that cause throbbing pain on one side of the head. Apart from the pain, migraines come with other symptoms such as light sensitivity, dizziness, and nausea.

– Tension Headaches
Another type is called tension headaches. These cause ache, pressure and tightness around the forehead or the back of the head and neck.

Most of the time, people with any of these problems can treat their ailment using over-the-counter pain medications that do not require any prescription from the doctor.
Examples are:
– acetaminophen (Tylenol)
– ibuprofen (Advil)

Other pain medications that are stronger and faster-acting require prescription.

When to get Screening Test?
So, you are probably wondering when you should get screening tests for your headaches. If the headache is chronic and the pain is unbearable, you might want to get a screening test. Other than that, if the headache inflicts extreme pain that suddenly attacks, you must get a screening test right away.

For most people, imaging tests are not required to determine the cause of headaches. Doctors can make the diagnosis and prescribe treatment after analyzing your symptoms and performing a physical exam. The doctor may only order these tests to detect serious medical conditions that may be causing the headaches, such as:
– brain tumor
– aneurysm
– infection

Usually, headaches are caused by an underlying medical condition when there are more symptoms other than the pain in the head such as:
– weakness
– vomiting
– numbness
– tingling
– problems with vision and coordination

To evaluate your headache, you have the option between these two imaging tests: CT scan and MRI.

CT Scan
Computerized Axial Tomography Scan or CT Scan involves the use of an X-ray to get a detailed picture of what’s inside your head. During this test, the head goes into the CT-scanner, which is a big round machine that has a hole in the middle like a doughnut. The test takes about a few minutes.

The MRI or Magnetic Resonance Imaging makes use of a magnet and radio waves to provide a detailed image of the inside of the head. The picture that you get from an MRI is more detailed and clear than the image you get from a CT scan. During this test, you will be asked to lie down inside a machine that has a very strong magnet. The test can last from 30 minutes to an hour.

Benefits of Screening
Having an imaging test will not cure your pain. But it may give you some peace of mind knowing that your headache isn’t caused by a serious problem. If in case it is, it enables you and your doctor to formulate a more effective treatment for the serious medical condition that you have. It can also play a role in early detection and may increase your chances of recovery.

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