Diagnosing migraines is a process of elimination; before your MD can diagnose migraine, he has to rule out all other scenarios. Say you’ve had a migraine headache for weeks. You know you don’t have a brain tumor, at least that’s what the MRI says. You haven’t suffered any brain trauma, haven’t been in a car accident. What other options are there for diagnosing migraines?
One often-overlooked test for diagnosing migraines is the spinal tap, medically known as a lumbar puncture. A spinal tap collects cerebrospinal fluid from the area around your brain and spinal cord, and uses that information to find the cause of chronic pain symptoms like migraine-like headaches, tinnitus (ear ringing), and muscular soreness.
Why get a spinal tap?
In diagnosing everyday migraines, it’s important to try everything. If you’ve gone through an exhaustive collection of migraine medications without results, then it might be time to find out if another condition is triggering your headaches. Your migraine headache might be from pseudotumor cerebri, or idiopathic intracranial hypertension. And the only way to confirm that is by getting a lumbar puncture.
When cerebrospinal fluids build up and cause pressure in your skull, it creates tumor-like symptoms. Doctors don’t know exactly what causes this neurological disorder, hence the term “idiopathic” intracranial hypertension. Pseudotumor cerebri is not a brain tumor, but it feels like one, and it also triggers a migraine attack.
Symptoms of pseudotumor cerebri include:
- Chronic headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Neck and shoulder pain
- Painful tingling and numbness in the hands and feet
- Muscular weakness
- Myofascial pain
- Altered sense of smell
- Visual impairments
- Vision loss
Who gets pseudotumor cerebri?
More women than men suffer from pseudotumor cerebri, another common factor it has with migraines. It also occurs more frequently among the obese, which is not said to influence migraine disorder directly, although numerous studies note a decrease in migraine symptoms when sufferers lose considerable weight.
Should I get a lumbar puncture?
That is for you and your migraine headache specialist to decide. Before you submit to the test, your doctor will need a complete report of all medications you are taking, particularly blood thinners, if you have any allergies, and if you are pregnant. Your doctor will decide when and where the procedure may be done.
Coming up in part II of Diagnosing Constant Migraines with a Lumbar Puncture (Spinal Tap), we will discuss what to expect before and after the test.
Please tell us…
- Do you suffer from migraines that come once or twice per month, or are your migraine headaches constant?
- Would you consider getting a spinal tap to rule out idiopathic intracranial hypertension?
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Tags: Chronic pain symptoms, Diagnosing migraines, idiopathic intracranial hypertension, lumbar puncture or spinal tap for migraines, migraine attack, migraine drugs, migraine headache, migraine medications, migraine treatments, natural alternative supplements for migraines, pseudotumor cerebri