Is MRI Really Needed to Diagnose Migraines?On September 22, 2017 by Admin
For most evaluations of headaches, brain imaging isn’t required, because doctors can diagnose headache disorders and migraines according to the symptoms, medical history and physical examination of their patients. In some cases, such procedures as CT scans and MRIs of the brain are necessary to evaluate any life-threatening and serious causes of headaches. Check different examples when doctors advise brain imaging for headaches.
Thunderclap or Worst Headaches in Your Life
Thunderclap headaches are often called the worst headaches in people’s lives. They are worrisome for brain bleeding or subarachnoid hemorrhage and require immediate CT scanning. If the brain scan is normal, but doctors are still worried about this health risk, it’s necessary to perform a spinal tap or lumbar puncture. Besides, magnetic resonance venography, or MRV, and angiography, or MRA, are often done to further research blood vessel issues in the brain. Thunderclap headaches can also indicate other severe health conditions, including arterial dissection and hypertensive emergency.
Severe Headaches in Postpartum Periods and Pregnancy
While headaches are normal during pregnancy and often not worrisome, severe ones require brain imaging. For some severe health conditions, such as reversible cerebral vascular syndrome and pituitary apoplexy, pregnancy is a risk factor, because brain arteries spasm. There are other serious conditions that should be considered by doctors if their female patients have severe headaches during pregnancy, including cerebral venous thrombosis and stroke.
Sudden Severe Headaches on One Side of Your Head
Sudden one-side onsets of headaches, especially if pain radiates into your neck, are worrisome for a vertebral or carotid artery dissection. They are medical emergencies, because they require instant MRIs of the brain in addition to the MRA or CTA of your neck and head, as these imaging tests check blood vessels in the brain.
Headaches in Older Patients Who Have Giant Cell Artritis
Giant cell arteritis leads to inflammation in medium-sized and central large blood vessels, which are the branches of an external carotid artery in the neck. This inflammation of blood vessels results in different symptoms, such as new headaches as the scalp is tender to touch, sudden vision changes, and jaw pain while eating. Some patients may develop a fever and feel bad because of generalized body aches and loss of appetite. It’s necessary to undergo a high-resolution MRI and a biopsy of the temporary artery in addition to ERS, or erythrocyte sedimentation rate blood tests, to confirm a correct diagnosis.
Headaches and Weak Immune System
Patients who have a medical history of diabetes, AIDS and HIV and people who take corticosteroids, such as prednisone, for a long time or undergo any chemotherapy for cancer have a weak immune system. This means that their bodies have difficulty fighting different infections. The main worries about headaches in patients with a weak immune system include the following:
• Brain abscess;
• Cancer of spinal cord or brain.
Any infections and tumors in the brain can be visualized with an MRI.
New Headaches and Worsening Patterns
Headaches that have worsening patterns require brain imaging to check for brain tumors and bleeding, such as a subdural hematoma. New headaches, especially in patients with a medical history of HIV or cancer, also require brain imaging because of a possible risk of infections and cancer spread to the brain.
Headaches and Other Symptoms
Sometimes, specific symptoms linked to headaches require neuroimaging, such as an MRI or a CT scan. They include the following worrisome signs:
• Neck stiffness, fever and other body symptoms, such as skin rash;
• Neurological symptoms, like numbness or weakness of one side of your body, confusion and blurry vision;
• Finding papilledema during physical exams (when an optic disc in eyes swells due to increased brain pressure);
• Headaches triggered by sex, strenuous exercises and coughing.
It’s worth mentioning that brain imaging isn’t indicated to diagnose migraines and headaches in most cases. Most patients simply have a typical headache without any further health complications. However, you still need to visit doctors who will evaluate your headache disorders, because it can be quite challenging to distinguish serious health problems. Sometimes, it’s all about minor medical nuances that qualified doctors pick up to make the right diagnosis and recommend an effective treatment based on it. Don’t ignore your headaches.