Font Size

Cluster Headache FAQs (cont.)

What tests are done for people with cluster headaches?

Doctors reach a diagnosis of cluster headache entirely on the basis of the signs (what doctors find on examination) and symptoms (what patients report) of the condition. Rarely, the signs and symptoms caused by tumors or other masses mimic those of cluster headaches. In these uncertain cases, doctors will order a CT scan or MRI (which shows images of the inside of the body).

Sometimes, a lumbar puncture (spinal tap) is needed. This procedure may help confirm if an individual's cluster headaches are caused by an infection or by bleeding in or around the brain.

These tests are necessary, because people with the following medical problems can have signs and symptoms that may be mistaken for those of cluster headaches:

  • Meningiomas of the cavernous sinus (a benign [relatively harmless] tumor in a certain part of the brain)
  • Arteriovenous malformations (blood vessel defects)
  • Pituitary adenomas (benign tumors of the pituitary gland)
  • Nasopharyngeal carcinoma (cancer in certain parts of the nasal passages and neck)
  • Vertebral artery aneurysms (bulging in certain arteries of the head and neck)
  • Metastatic carcinoma of the lung (spreading lung cancer)
  • Subarachnoid hemorrhage (bleeding in the membranes of the brain
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 7/22/2014
Medical Author:
Medical Editor:
Medical Editor:
Medical Editor:

Must Read Articles Related to Cluster Headache FAQs

Alternative and Complementary Approaches to Migraine and Cluster Headaches
CAM for Migraine and Cluster Headaches In the United States, alternative and complementary medicine is growing rapidly and includes treatment of many health conditions, including pain. In 2002, accor...learn more >>
Causes and Treatments of Migraine and Related Headaches
Causes and Treatments of Migraine Headaches Headaches are very common; in fact, almost everyone will have a headache at some point. Headaches have been written about since the time of the Babylonians. Mig...learn more >>
Cluster Headache
Cluster Headache Cluster headache is far less common than migraine headache or tension headache. Cluster headaches begin far more dramatically, however, and remain quite unique ...learn more >>

Read What Your Physician is Reading on Medscape

Cluster Headache »

Cluster headache (CH) is an idiopathic syndrome consisting of recurrent brief attacks of sudden, severe, unilateral periorbital pain.

Read More on Medscape Reference »

Medical Dictionary