Diagnosing Migraines- the Basic Symptoms

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How does one tell the difference between ordinary headaches and migraine headaches? In diagnosing migraines, your doctor may run a variety of tests and use specific diagnostic criteria. Here are some basic facts that help your healthcare provider distinguish between tension headaches and the worst migraines of your life…


Migraine symptoms

Any migraine sufferer can attest to the fact that migraines are about more than just a headache; a migraine attack may include a variety of debilitating ailments, in addition to excruciating head pain.

Typical symptoms of a migraine attack may include:

  • Pounding, long-lasting head pain
  • Sharp pain behind the eyes
  • Neck stiffness
  • Vomiting
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Hypersensitivity to bright lights, scents, or loud noises
  • Fatigue


Here Comes a Migraine Attack- 20 Telltale Signs

“Migraines with aura” also cause:
  • Visual disturbances, such as bright flickering lights or blind spots
  • Vertigo
  • Olfactory hallucinations
  • Partial, temporary paralysis
  • Temporary speech slurring
  • Loss of spatial awareness
  • Loss of consciousness


The measure of a migraine

In diagnosing migraines, specialists look for a set of specific symptoms occurring in at least five separate migraine attacks.

  • Headaches that last between 4-72 hours
  • Headaches that cause nausea, vomiting, or extreme sensitivity to bright lights (photophobia) and loud noises (phonophobia)
  • Headaches that inhibit normal, day-to-day activities
  • Headaches that include two of the following criteria: head pain that is on one side of the head, headaches with pulsating (throbbing) qualities, pain described as moderate to excruciating, or head pain that intensifies with mild physical activity
  • Absence of any head injuries or other disorder that can cause severe headaches.

Please tell us…

What tests did your doctor use to diagnose migraines?

Do you suffer from chronic headaches, but aren’t sure if they classify as migraines?

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Read more about migraine headaches

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Migraine Diagnosis: Migraine Health Information – NY Times Health

International Headache Society diagnostic criteria

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