There's no specific test to diagnose migraines. For an accurate diagnosis to be made, your GP must identify a pattern of recurring headaches along with the associated symptoms.
Migraines can be unpredictable, sometimes occurring without the other symptoms. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis can sometimes take time.
On your first visit, your GP may carry out a physical examination and check your vision, co-ordination, reflexes and sensations. These will help rule out some other possible underlying causes of your symptoms.
Your GP may ask if your headaches are:
To help with the diagnosis, it can be useful to keep a diary of your migraine attacks for a few weeks.
Note down details including:
Taking too many painkillers is an important reason why migraines can become difficult to treat. This is called analgesic overuse headache.
It will be very helpful to keep a record of what painkillers you take and how often you take them. You shouldn't take painkillers on more than 10 days every month in the long-term.
It may also be helpful for women to make a note when they start their period,as this can help your GP identify potential triggers.
Your GP may decide to refer you to a neurologist (a specialist in conditions affecting the brain and nervous system) for further assessment and treatment if:
A migraine is usually a severe headache felt as a throbbing pain at the front or side of the head. Many people also have symptoms such as nausea, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light or sound. Migraine is a common health condition, affecting around one in every five women and around one in every 15 men. They usually begin in early adulthood.
The main symptom of a migraine is usually an intense headache that occurs at the front or on one side of the head. Other symptoms commonly associated with a migraine include: nausea, vomiting, increased sensitivity to light and sound which is why many people with a migraine want to rest in a quiet, dark room. Some people also occasionally experience other symptoms, including: sweating, poor concentration, feeling very hot or very cold, abdominal (tummy) pain, diarrhoea.
The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but they're thought to be the result of abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, chemicals and blood vessels in the brain. It's not clear what causes this change in brain activity, but it's possible that your genes make you more likely to experience migraines as a result of a specific trigger.
There's no specific test to diagnose migraines. For an accurate diagnosis to be made, your GP must identify a pattern of recurring headaches along with the associated symptoms. Migraines can be unpredictable, sometimes occurring without the other symptoms. Obtaining an accurate diagnosis can sometimes take time.
There is currently no cure for migraines, although a number of treatments are available to help ease the symptoms. It may take time to work out the best treatment for you. You may need to try different types or combinations of medicines before you find the most effective ones. If you find you can't manage your migraines using over-the-counter medicines, your GP may prescribe something stronger.
Migraines are associated with a small increased risk of ischaemic strokes, and a very small increased risk of mental health problems. Studies have shown that people who experience migraines (particularly migraine with aura) have about twice the risk of having an ischaemic stroke at some point compared to people without migraines.
There are a number of ways you can reduce your chances of experiencing migraines. One of the best ways of preventing migraines is recognizing the things that trigger an attack and trying to avoid them. You may find you tend to have a migraine after eating certain foods or when you're stressed and by avoiding this trigger, you can prevent a migraine.
Debbie was 12 years old when she first began having symptoms of migraine. For the next 10 years, Debbie battled with her regular headaches. She went back to the doctor several times but nothing seemed to work.