What are headaches?
Almost everyone has an
occasional headache. Most headaches, even very painful tension and migraine
headaches, may be treated with common medicines, do not require prescription
narcotic pain medicines, and are not life-threatening. The most common types of
headaches may happen again and again and include:
- Cluster headaches, which cause debilitating pain during cycles or "clusters" of
headaches that happen over a period of weeks to months.
- Migraine headaches, which cause throbbing pain usually
on one side of the head. These headaches often occur with nausea, vomiting, and
extreme sensitivity to light and sound and sometimes smells.
- Tension headaches, which cause aching pain and
tightness around the forehead that may feel like a "vise grip."
What are the risks of having headaches?
are common. They are commonly caused by tension, but they can also be caused by
eyestrain, a dental problem, or a sinus infection. Very few headaches are
actually caused by a serious medical condition.
When headaches are
a sign of a more serious illness, you may also have additional symptoms such as
vomiting, dizziness, or changes in vision. A few uncommon but serious illnesses
that can cause recurring, painful headaches along with other symptoms are a
head injury, bleeding around the brain, or a brain infection or tumor.
What types of imaging tests evaluate headaches?
Most of the time, you do not need imaging tests to find a treatment for
your headaches. Imaging tests may show changes in the brain and face that could
lead to recurring headaches. The two imaging tests that may be used to evaluate
headache pain are:
- CT scan of the head and face, which uses
X-rays to take detailed pictures of structures inside
the head and face.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head, which takes pictures of structures inside the head and face and
provides more detail than other tests, such as X-rays or a CT scan.
If you need more information, see the topics
Migraine Headaches, or