Diagnosis of tension headache or cluster headaches is based on symptoms, a thorough medical examination, and—in some cases—diagnostic tests. Headache diagnosis may including the following:

  • Blood tests (e.g., thyroid, liver, and kidney function tests)
  • Eye examination
  • Family history
  • Medical history (including medications and characteristics of the headache[s])
  • Neurological examination
  • Evaluation of sleep habits

Imaging studies of the brain may be necessary to rule out any serious underlying medical problem, such as brain tumor, stroke, infection, and vascular malformation (e.g., aneurysm).

Imaging studies that may be performed include:

Laboratory and imaging tests can help rule out secondary causes of headache, such as the following:

  • Brain tumor
  • Cerebral aneurysm
  • Diabetes
  • High blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Infection (e.g., meningitis, sinusitis, ear infection)
  • Temporal arteritis
  • Trigeminal neuralgia

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 31 Dec 2001

Last Modified: 18 Sep 2015