According to the World Health Organization, as many as 1 in 20 adults have headaches daily or almost daily. Tension headaches are the most common type of headache and affect over a third of men and more than half of women. Migraines are also very common and affect 1 in 7 adults worldwide. However, it is important to understand that there are several types of potentially life-threatening medical conditions that can cause debilitating headaches, so it's important to seek a medical evaluation through an MRI if you routinely suffer with horrible headaches. Here's what you need to know.
You've likely heard of meningitis, which is a severe infection of the brain that can cause the inflammation of brain cells, which leads to debilitating headaches. Meningitis mimics the flu in early stages with symptoms developing over several hours or days. Without immediate antibiotic treatment, bacterial meningitis can lead to death in just a few short days. If you wait too long to get treatment, you could be at risk of permanent brain damage if you do survive the infection. The inflammation caused by the infection can show up on an MRI in detail.
The build up of cerebrospinal fluid in and around the brain is called hydrocephalus. This build up of fluid puts pressure on brain cells, which causes headaches and could lead to death if not treated with shunts. The brain produces cerebrospinal fluid which then flows through the ventricles (cavities inside the brain), around the brain, down through the foramen magnum (the opening at the base of the brain for the spinal cord), into the spinal cord, and then absorbed into the bloodstream. Hydrocephalus occurs when there is an obstruction to the flow, an absorption failure, or an increase in the production of the fluid within the brain. MRI imaging can show whether there is too much fluid on the brain and, possibly, the cause of the build up.
Chiari malformation is a condition in which the lower portion of the skull is not formed correctly, which causes the cerebellar tonsils of the cerebellum to fall into the foramen magnum. The herniation of the tonsils can put pressure on the brain stem, which controls your respiratory rate, blood pressure, heart beat and other crucial bodily systems. The herniation can also obstruct the flow of the cerebrospinal fluid, which could lead to hydrocephalus and/or syringomyelia (pocket of trapped fluid in the spinal cord). To treat Chiari malformation, a small portion of the skull is removed and, sometimes, the cerebellar tonsils are cauterized. Chiari malformation is diagnosed with a brain and neck MRI.
Contact an imaging service, like DirectImaging , for more help.