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.

How often your headaches occur and how long they last also are important factors.

Your doctor will likely 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. Your doctor will use a series of procedures to assess your brain function, including testing your senses, reflexes and nerves.

Imaging tests

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

  • CT scan. This uses a series of X-rays to create detailed cross-sectional images of your brain.
  • MRI. This uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of your brain and blood vessels.