Speaking the Same Language

Have you ever tried to communicate with someone who speaks another language? It can be frustrating, painfully slow, and rife with misunderstanding. Without an interpreter, pointing and hand gestures will only get you so far. In order to have effective communication, it is essential that everyone speak the same language. Even minor differences in dialect, accent, and colloquialisms can drastically change the meaning.

When it comes to migraine and other headache disorders, sharing a common language is essential for an accurate diagnosis and effective treatment. Unfortunately, not everyone speaks the same language. One doctor might say you have “classic migraine” – an outdated term for Migraine without Aura. Another may refer to Migraine with Aura or Migraine with Brainstem Aura as “complicated migraine.” This happens when doctors who treat patients with headache disorders don’t use the International Classification of Headache Disorders (ICHD) as their diagnostic guide.

The ICHD is the “gold standard” by which all headache disorders should be diagnosed. It contains a common language with which we can all communicate about migraine and headache. Its current edition, ICHD-3 (bet), has been available online as a PDF download for a few years.  I have used it as a primary resource for many articles, patient education, and when making personal health care decisions. While it has been a handy reference, scrolling through such a large document is cumbersome.

Recently the ICHD-3 (beta) got its own website that is available to the general public. You can find it at www.ichd-3.org. Right away I knew I would prefer the online version because it was faster and easier to find details about the topic for which I was searching. Let’s say I wanted to know more about Hemiplegic Migraine. I can just enter “hemiplegic migraine” into the search box at the top right of the page and click “Search.” In a flash, the screen updates with links to every mention of Hemiplegic Migraine in the entire ICHD-3 (beta). Finding important information about headache disorders has never been easier.

The ICHD is essential for headache research. When studies are conducted, patient volunteers are recruited to participate. By using the diagnostic criteria in the ICHD-3 (beta), researchers can establish clear inclusion criteria to ensure that the participants actually have the diagnosis they are trying to study. In the absence of biomarkers (scans, cultures, blood tests, etc.) a common language is even more essential. Because of the ICHD, we can trust that research conducted on Chronic Migraine actually involves patients who have 15 or more headache days per month.

The benefits of the ICHD don’t stop in the laboratory. It has a big role to play in your doctor’s office, too. Working with a doctor who uses the ICHD-3 (beta) is an important part of good Migraine management. When you make a commitment to work with a true headache specialist, you are choosing the very best in Migraine care. Because headache specialists use the community’s accepted language, it is much easier for both you and your doctor to communicate with other patients, health care providers, and insurance companies. When we all speak the same language, we can understand each other so much better.

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