Migraine is part of a larger family
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Roughly half of those who meet clinical criteria for a migraine diagnosis have never talked to a doctor about their symptoms. I’m not referring to those of us who have given up on doctors. These are the people who haven’t ever tried to get medical help for migraine symptoms. Half of all migraine sufferers are self-diagnosed or not diagnosed at all. Many don’t even know that they have migraine. Some people think they have migraine, when the problem may be something very different. Many migraineurs also have more than one headache disorder and don’t even know it.

After all, migraine isn’t the only serious headache disorder. There are dozens of nasty disorders.  The International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD-3) is the gold standard used in diagnosing headache disorders. If your doctor isn’t using it, then it may be time to find one who is.  According to the ICHD-3, there are 9 different migraine disorders (plus 4 complications and 4 associated syndromes), 4 tension-type headache disorders, 5 trigeminal autonomic cephalagias, 10 other primary headache disorders, and 59 secondary headache disorders.

Primary Headache Disorders

A primary headache disorder is one without a known cause. Despite internet claims to the contrary, none of the primary headache disorders have a definite cause. They have triggers, but those vary from patient to patient. Severity can range from mild, intermittent attacks to daily, unremitting pain.

There are four categories of primary headache disorders:

  1. Migraine
  2. Tension-type headache
  3. Trigeminal Autonomic Cephalalgias
  4. Other headache disorders

Secondary Headache Disorders

A secondary headache disorder does have a known cause and is often reversible once the cause is eliminated or corrected. However, knowing the cause of a headache disorder is not the same as having a cure. Even some secondary headache disorders are difficult to treat. Some don’t have a cure either. Secondary headache disorders can be just as insidious as a primary headache disorder.

With all those options, are you absolutely sure that your migraine diagnosis is correct?

What if you actually have more than one headache disorder?

How would you know?

Coming up next

That’s why I’ve decided to start a new series that will cover many of these headache disorders. Part of an advocate’s responsibility is to educate patients about their disease. That includes giving you information about alternative diagnoses. So over the course of this year, watch for new features that offer detailed information about other headache disorders and how they compare to migraine. If you have requests for specific disorder, please let me know by commenting below or sending me a message through our Community Forums.

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