Systemic infections (for example, pneumonia or influenza)
Changes in the body’s environment
High blood pressure (hypertension)
Problems with the eyes, ears, nose throat, teeth and neck
What are the exams and tests for secondary headaches?
The patient history and physical examination provide the best means for determining the cause of secondary headaches. Therefore, it is extremely important that patients with severe headaches seek medical care and give their health care practitioner an opportunity to assess their condition. Tests that may be useful in making the diagnosis of the underlying disease causing headaches include:
computerized tomography (CT Scan),
magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans of the head, and
Specific tests will depend upon what potential issues the health care practitioner and patient want to address.
Blood tests provide helpful information in association with the history and physical examination in pursuing a diagnosis. For example, an infection or inflammation in the body may cause a rise in the white blood cell count, the erythrocyte sedimentation rate(ESR) or C-reactive protein (CRP). Blood tests can also assess electrolyte disturbances, and a variety of organ functions like liver, kidney, and thyroid.
Computerized tomography of the head
Computerized tomography is able to detect bleeding, swelling, and tumor. It can also show evidence of previous stroke. With intravenous contrast injection, it can also be used to look at the arteries of the brain.
Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of the head or Electroencephalography (EEG)
MRI is able to better look at the anatomy of the brain, meninges (the layers that cover the brain and the spinal cord). While it is more precise, the time to perform the scan is significantly longer than for computerized tomography. This type of scan is not available at all hospitals. EEG is also helping to rule out seizures, tumours or any focal abnormalities.
Cerebro-spinal fluid, the fluid that surrounds the brain and spinal cord, can be obtained with a needle that is inserted into the spine in the lower back. Examination of the fluid can reveal infection (such as meningitis due to bacteria, a virus, or tuberculosis) or blood from hemorrhage. In almost all cases, computerized tomography is done prior to lumbar puncture to make certain there is no bleeding, swelling, or tumor in the brain.