Although they are very common, migraines are a very difficult disorder to diagnose. More than 10 million doctor visits per year are because of head pain. No specific test exists to confirm a diagnosis of migraines. Instead, doctors must rule out all other diseases or illnesses that could cause similar symptoms. In fact, only half of the people who meet the definition of migraines have been officially diagnosed. Therefore, depending on your migraine symptoms, doctors may use a range of other tests before diagnosing your migraine attacks.
Triggering a migraine
In some cases, the doctor may try to bring on a migraine so that you may be examined during the migraine attack. This technique, sometimes referred to as “migraine-provoking test” may be conducted by having you stare at a busy pattern, eat a food that triggers migraines such as chocolate or by administering drugs known to induce migraines.
In order to diagnose migraines, some migraine specialists rely on asking a list of questions, which may be called a questionnaire or an assessment.
This type of X-ray takes images of blood flow in the head and neck by using dye and a camera called a fluoroscope. A catheter, which is a thin tube goes into the groin or elbow and is sent up the blood vessel to the head or neck. Aneurysms, narrowing arteries or blocked blood vessels can be seen using this testing method.
X-ray of the head and face
This is sometimes done to determine if there are underlying injuries which may be responsible for the migraine symptoms.
This type of blood test measures the levels of substances in your blood. This can be used to determine if there is an imbalanced which may cause migraine-like symptoms.
Depending on the migraine symptoms you experience, your doctor may recommend other tests to diagnose your condition. Keeping an up-to-date log of all of your migraine attacks in your migraine journal will help determine the cause of your discomfort.
Written by: Otesa Miles | Last reviewed: August 2014
Diagnosis and Management of Migraine Headaches; Lawrence; Southern Medical Journal November 2004