When to Seek MRI for Chronic Headaches

\"WhenHeadaches are often assumed to simply be a part of daily life, whether caused by noise exposure, a lack of sleep, lack of caffeine, or stress. However, the presence of regular headaches can be a symptom of more dangerous and life–threatening illnesses that warrant administering an MRI.

Below, check out some tips from Dr. Andy Fine of Colorado Primary Health Care, outlining potential causes for chronic headaches, as well as situations in which an MRI would be recommended for further evaluation.

There are three potentially life–threatening causes of recurring headaches for which suffering patients should be evaluated, we will expand upon below. Through acquiring an MRI, patients can be evaluated to either identify or rule–out causation including a tumor, an aneurysm, or an infection. With a proper physical exam and history with a physician, the source of symptoms can be determined.

One potentially life–threatening source of chronic headaches is an infection in the brain. Symptoms of such include a stiff neck, confusion, fever, chills, mental status changes, and decreased alertness. Another source could be a brain tumor, with accompanying symptoms including weight loss, night sweats, headaches that become progressively more severe, intense, frequent, or lengthy in duration, and the presence of morning headaches. Recurring, painful headaches may also be linked to an aneurysm. However, the type of headaches affiliated with aneurysms involves severe, intense pain—ie: the worst headache you’ve ever had in your life, often described as a thunder–clap. If you are experiencing any of the aforementioned symptoms, contact your primary care physician today to schedule an evaluation.

Patients utilizing over–the–counter medications, such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen, to curb their headaches more than a couple of times a week should do so with caution, as they can cause a rebound headache once the medication wears off, perpetuating the cycle of chronic headaches. At Colorado Primary Health Care, we highly encourage patients currently experiencing multiple headaches a month to seek evaluation from a medical professional before using over–the–counter and prescription medication to resolve their symptoms.

\"\"Nearly 98% of the time, patients experiencing chronic headaches are usually suffering from tension headaches—or what Dr. Andy Fine refers to as “chronic migraines.” While the specific trigger for these headaches is relatively unknown, they can be linked to environmental causes such as lack of sleep, stress, certain foods, or exposure to allergens. Thankfully, there are treatment options for environmental headaches in the form of non–habit forming daily medications to blunt the response from which the headaches are causing a chronic cycle. The treatment for headaches that are happening regularly—meaning more than two times a month—must be determined by evaluation from a doctor to ensure the ailment doesn’t need to be further explored via an MRI.

If your headache pattern has not changed and or been stable, you probably do not have anything that would warrant a MRI. Remember, MRI’s are considered to be expensive testing, and the healthcare industry is moving forward with the goal of avoiding unnecessary testing on patients. If you believe your symptoms could allude to a more severe diagnosis, or even if you simply want your chronic headaches evaluated by a professional, contact Colorado Primary Health Care today to schedule a consultation. If you do not need an MRI after your evaluation, our physicians can provide you with a preventative medication to curb future headaches.

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