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Personal stories about image tests for evaluating headaches

These stories are based on information gathered from health professionals and consumers. They may be helpful as you make important health decisions.

Amy, age 26: I started having headaches a few months ago, seems like out of the blue. The pain is usually on one side of my head, although it can spread to my whole head. Light hurts my eyes, and sound and quick body movements make the headaches worse. Sometimes I feel nauseous. The headaches go away in a few hours, but I feel exhausted for several days after the pain stops. My doctor said the headaches are probably migraines. She gave me some medications to stop a migraine when it starts. I am going to try the medications for a while and keep a headache diary to get a better idea of when my headaches occur and if there is anything (like certain foods) that might be triggering my headaches. I don't think I need image tests right now.

Robert, age 52: Headache pain started waking me up in the night a couple of months after I had a minor car accident. I didn't go to the hospital after my accident because I felt fine. The headache pain is pretty severe but doesn't stick around too long. Sometimes I feel tingling down my arm when I get a headache, and one side of my face feels numb. My vision gets a little blurry, too. I went to see my doctor, who recommended I have image tests to make sure I didn't injure my brain during the accident. I think I'll have the image tests to make sure nothing serious is causing my headaches.

Ramon, age 30: A few hours after I went to sleep, I started waking up with extremely painful headaches that affect only one side of my head and face. My nose gets runny, and my eye waters and droops a little bit on the same side of my face. It feels like someone is sticking a hot poker in the side of my head. The headache pain usually stops in about 30 minutes, but then another one starts in an hour or two. I visited my doctor, and he said these are classic cluster headache symptoms. I think my dad had these headaches, too. I'm going to try the medications the doctor gave me to stop the headaches and see what happens. My doctor and I discussed image tests, but neither of us thinks they are necessary right now. Even if I had the tests, my treatment wouldn't change.

Lita, age 42: I had breast cancer a few years ago, but it went into remission after a long period of treatment, and all my follow-up tests have been cancer-free. I have been feeling pretty good for a few years now, but recently I started having headaches that make me really nauseous. I smell weird smells and sometimes I feel really spacey. Because of my history with cancer, my doctor thinks I should have image tests even though these may just be migraine headaches-I had a few migraines earlier in my life. My blood work keeps coming back normal, but I am really worried about what could be causing my headaches. I am going to have image tests just for reassurance that the cancer has not returned.

Author Monica Rhodes
Editor Kathleen M. Ariss, MS
Associate Editor Pat Truman, MATC
Primary Medical Reviewer Anne C. Poinier, MD - Internal Medicine
Specialist Medical Reviewer Colin Chalk, MD, CM, FRCPC - Neurology
Last Updated April 11, 2008

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: April 11, 2008
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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