How Migraine Is Diagnosed

How Migraine Is Diagnosed

We’ve written about the causes of migraine on the blog before. A migraine is not just a bad headache. It’s a neurological disease that has a variety of symptoms that go beyond head pain. We dive into the four phases that many people experience as migraine symptoms and we discuss common migraine triggers and causes. Here, we’ll be taking a look at the path as to how migraine is diagnosed.

Migraine can upend your life, making it difficult to carry on with everyday activities, disrupting work and family time. Taking the step to getting diagnosed with migraines can help minimize or eliminate migraine symptoms. Every patient is different. Some patients might be able to receive a diagnosis in one doctor’s visit. But if your doctor and treatment team believe something else could be causing your migraine symptoms, they could send you for further testing to eliminate other possibilities. 

Medical History

Oftentimes, the first step in receiving a diagnosis will be reviewing your medical history. This includes your own medical history and your family’s medical history. Come prepared with a full list of medications (both prescription and non-prescription), other medical conditions you’ve been diagnosed with, and a list of any other symptoms you’ve been experiencing. 

When you experience migraine attacks, try to record your symptoms before, during, and after in order for your healthcare provider to have a good look at the whole picture. The more details, the better. It’s crucial for your doctor to be informed if any of your relatives have been diagnosed with migraine, as it can be hereditary. It’s also important to make them aware of any other medical conditions that run in your family. Your doctor will also want to learn more about your current diet as well as activity and stress levels. Be sure to include if certain OTC medications seem to lessen the pain if you notice pain starting or peaking at a certain time, or what the pain level is and what the pain feels like during a migraine attack. 

Medical Exam

The next step in diagnosing migraine is a medical exam. This includes neurological tests and blood pressure and pulse reading. During the neurological test, the doctor will see how your body responds to certain sensations and they will check your reflexes. They will also examine your head, neck, and shoulders. 

Many patients are able to receive a diagnosis with these first few steps. If you’ve recorded at least five headaches that last between 4 and 72 hours and have at least two of these symptoms, it’s likely that you’ll be diagnosed with migraine:

  • Pulsing or throbbing pain
  • Moderate to severe pain
  • Pain is located on one side of the head
  • Pain that worsens with normal activity
  • Pain that causes nausea
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to sound

If your doctor isn’t able to diagnose using these first two steps, you might need to proceed with more testing to rule out other conditions. 

Scans to Rule Out Other Conditions

According to Mayo Clinic, “if your condition is unusual, complex or suddenly becomes severe, tests to rule out other causes for your pain might include:

Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI). An MRI scan uses a powerful magnetic field and radio waves to produce detailed images of the brain and blood vessels. MRI scans help doctors diagnose tumors, strokes, bleeding in the brain, infections, and other brain and nervous system (neurological) conditions.

Computerized tomography (CT) scan. A CT scan uses a series of X-rays to create detailed cross-sectional images of the brain. This helps doctors diagnose tumors, infections, brain damage, bleeding in the brain, and other possible medical problems that may be causing headaches.”

Both MRIs and CT scans are for ruling out possible tumors, infections, or other issues. If no other causes can be found, this could help your doctor make a migraine diagnosis. 

Make an Appointment at Trident Pain Centers

At Trident Pain Center, our pain specialists help patients with a wide range of conditions manage their pain so they can live fuller lives. For patients with chronic headaches or migraine pain, a treatment called SphenoCath may be an option. Our health professionals will evaluate your case based on your specific pain, your history, pain management, and diagnostic tests. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or to learn more about migraine pain relief.

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