Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Cluster headache has a characteristic type of pain and pattern of attacks. A diagnosis depends on your description of the attacks, including your pain, the location and severity of your headaches, and associated symptoms. The frequency and duration of your headaches also are important factors.

If you have chronic or recurrent headaches, your doctor may try to pinpoint the type and cause of your headache using certain approaches.

Neurological examination

A neurological examination may help your doctor detect physical signs of a cluster headache. Sometimes the pupil of your eye may appear smaller, or your eyelid may droop, even between attacks.

Imaging tests

If you have unusual or complicated headaches or an abnormal neurological examination, your doctor may recommend other tests to rule out other serious causes of head pain, such as a tumor or aneurysm. Common brain imaging tests include:

  • Computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan uses a series of X-rays to create detailed cross-sectional images of your brain.
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of your brain and blood vessels.
Jun. 04, 2013