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Healthwise Maui

Q: What’s the difference between a CT scan and an MRI?

Dr. Turgut Berkmen, neuroradiologist, Maui Memorial Medical Center: Both a CT scanner and an MRI scanner are used to take pictures of things inside your body, but they do so in different ways. An MRI scanner uses magnets and radio waves and is often used to look at issues in and around your brain, heart, blood vessels, breasts, and joints. A CT scanner uses X-rays and is more often used for things like bones, tumors, and to find internal bleeding.

Each type of scan has advantages and disadvantages. An MRI scan usually provides highly detailed images, while a CT scan is faster and can look at tissues, organs, bones and the larger structures in an area of your body. For an MRI scan, the patient has to lie down in a loud tube, and the magnets can cause problems with metal implants in the body. For a CT scan, the patient is exposed to a small dose of radiation, and it may be a risk to unborn babies.

Both the MRI and CT scanners are useful tools in diagnosing a medical problem. Your doctor can talk to you about which type of scan they think will be best to address your specific concern.

Q: What causes migraines and how can I prevent them?

Dr. Cordia Wan, neurologist, Pacific Permanente Group: If you’ve ever had migraines, you know they are not the same as regular headaches. With a migraine, people often feel a severe ache or throbbing, often on one side of their head. Some people also experience nausea and vomiting and can become extremely sensitive to light and sound. It’s also common for people to experience an “aura” before or during the migraine — such as seeing bright spots or flashes of light, feeling pins and needles, or hearing noises.

The causes of migraines aren’t entirely understood. They might be linked to inflammatory changes or neurochemical imbalance in the brain. But whatever the underlying cause, there are a number of environmental factors that are common triggers, like alcohol, coffee, stress, lack of sleep or changes in sleep patterns, bright lights and strong smells, processed and salty foods and certain medications. For women, hormonal changes around menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause can also be a trigger.

You don’t have to live with migraines. Many people can reduce the frequency of migraines, or stop them altogether, by making lifestyle changes and avoiding their migraine triggers. For others, there are medications you can take that stop symptoms during a migraine attack or prevent migraines from occurring. Talk with your doctor about the best plan for treatment.

* Physicians, providers and administrative staff who practice at Maui Health System hospitals and clinics answer questions from the public in “Healthwise Maui,” which appears on Thursdays. Maui Health System operates Maui Memorial Medical Center, Maui Memorial Medical Center Outpatient Clinic, Kula Hospital & Clinic and Lana’i Community Hospital and accepts all patients.

To submit a question, go to the website at mauihealthsystem.org/contact.