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Do I Have Migraine Headaches?

While one cannot make a diagnosis of migraine over the internet. One can determine if their headaches are consistent with migraine headaches. This is because the definition of a migraine excludes headaches that are secondary to something else going on like a brain tumor, infection, etc. This can only be done with a neurological examination but there are some historical features that set off "alarms" in doctors mind during a history - fever with your headache (go to ER), worst headache in your life that starts suddenly or escalates in only a minute or two (go to the ER if this is you), age over 50 for start of migraines, history of cancer, history of immunodeficiency, sudden change in headache pattern, and a headache that starts one day and never stops. The longer you have had headaches that come and then go for days at a time the more likely you have a primary headache type. You then look at your symptoms during your most severe headaches and see if they appear to meet the definition of migraine which is reproduced below and can be found online at the official International Classification of Headache Disease site.

For those over the age of 16 patients must fulfill the following criteria to be diagnosed with Common Migraine:

A. At least 5 attacks fulfilling B, C and D
B. Untreated or unsuccessfully treated headache attacks lasting 4-72 hours
C. Headaches that have at least two of the following characteristics:

D. During the headache at least one of the following occurs:

E. No other diagnosis to explain the headache.

The purpose of the criteria is to make sure someone with a different disease is not improperly diagnosed with migraine. This is why 5 headaches are required to make the diagnosis of migraine headache.

Some patients have an aura prior to their headache. An aura is defined by the official criteria as recurrent attacks, lasting minutes, of unilateral fully-reversible visual, sensory or other central nervous symptoms that usually develop gradually and are usually followed by headache and associated migraine symptoms. Types of aura and the characteristics of an aura are found online. Because these are so characteristic of migraine headaches, only 2 auras in your life followed by a typical migraine type headache is enough to diagnosis you with migraine with aura.

If you met criteria C above but not D, or if you meet D and only one item from C, then you could have probable migraine. As its name implies, given the years that we have worked with our current definitions, probable migraine is indeed probably migraine and for treatment purposes, nothing else changes.