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Diagnosis of Migraine & Headache Types

Migraines? But what kind? Help greatly appreciated!

  • By Briar Rose

    I’ve been experiencing a lot of nausea and spells of upset stomach and other gastro-related issues off and on for quite a while. I get sharp, stabbing pains in what feels like behind my eyes. It started on the right side, and was right side only for months, and now it has started doing it on the left side as well. I also have been getting pain on the right, back side of my neck, and more recently, pain and weakness in my right shoulder, and sometime down my right arm. I have “visual snow” and my ophthalmologist said that this can sometimes be a result of migraines. I seem to always have a dull headache, usually in the back of my head, starting from my temples and working down to my neck area in the back. However sometimes, I get debilitating, pack-a-punch headaches. I always seem to have a difficult time talking and concentrating when these come on. My previous primary doctor seemed to be struggling to figure out why I feel so yucky, and it wasn’t until my eye doctor mentioned migraines that I thought to look into it. I have started keeping the migraine journal on here to track symptoms, but I’m just wondering, does this sound like typical migraine issues? I’ve been trying to do research online, but it seems like there are so many different types, I’m getting a little confused/overwhelmed. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated. I see a new doctor soon, but it will be four weeks of waiting, and I’d like to get some input from actual migraine sufferers. Thank you!

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  • By Katie M. Golden Moderator

    BriarRose,
    Your symptoms do sound like Migraines. However, I’m not a doctor and I can’t diagnose you. The symptoms you describe could also be attributed to other illnesses as well, so seeing your doctor is the best course of action. You mentioned a new doctor? What kind? I highly recommend a neurologist. A primary care doctor has very little training in headache disorders. The best type of doctor for you to see is a Headache Specialist, which a neurologist who only deals with patients who have Headaches. Neuros can deal with Migraineurs as well as patients with Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s. If you are able to see a Headache Specialist, you should think about it. There are over 300 Headache disorders, so a specialist can help to narrow it down for you. Here is a list of them:
    http://www.ucns.org/globals/axon/assets/10300.pdf

    Getting back to your symptoms, it is very common to have neck and shoulder pain associated with your Migraines. I personally need regular massages to keep those tight muscles in check. Sometimes a muscle relaxer can help.

    It is also common for the pain to move from one side to another or to radiate behind the eye. The “snow” that you are seeing is called an aura. A large number of sufferers see this before the Migraine hits. It usually goes away in 15-20 minutes and then the pain gets very intense. Here’s more info about all stages of migraines:
    https://migraine.com/blog/what-are-the-stages-of-a-migraine-attack/

    The difficulty speaking or finding words is also unfortunately a side effect that some people experience. It can be scary at times. This is why you should definitely see a doctor and make sure to mention all of these symptoms so he can check you out for any other issues that could be causing this.

    Since you won’t be seeing a doctor for a few weeks, I’m sure you want some relief now. Check out this page to see if there is anything that you may want to try now to help you. Excedrin Migraine helps many people and there are also natural remedies you can try. Please make sure to read up on everything and don’t try it if you think it may interact with any other meds you’re on.

    https://migraine.com/migraine-treatment/

    I hope this will help get you started. Feel free to ask questions and I hope you get relief soon!
    -Katie

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  • By Briar Rose

    Thank you! I should be clear, I’m not actually looking for a diagnosis. I know that is impossible to do over a website, and dangerous to think otherwise. I just wanted input from others who know for sure they have migraines. The primary doctor I was seeing for the last 8 or so months left a lot to be desired, and after being sent home with muscle relaxant and pain pills every time without any real answers, I made an appointment with a different doctor at a different facility. It is still a family practice doctor, not a specialist. With the way my medical insurance works, I’ll need to get a referral from a GM in order to see a specialist. But, the more I go in knowing about migraines and perhaps my specific symptoms within the large variety, the better my appointment will go (I hope) 😛 Thank you for your input Katie! I have other medical issues, and it seems like it is taking forever to figure out what’s really going on with my body. When I started to look into migraines, I thought I saw a lot of myself and got excited. The information on this site has been fantastic!

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  • By Kerrie Smyres Moderator

    It sounds like migraine to me, too — it’s great you have an appointment with a doctor to look into your symptoms.

    You ask which kind of migraine. There are different kinds, though most people either have migraine with aura or migraine without aura. Other types, like hemiplegic, basilar or retinal, are quite rare. You could still have one of them, but for your early research, general migraine information will probably be the most useful. The visual snow is consistent with migraine with aura, so you may want to concentrate on that.

    Best of luck with your new doctor. Please let us know how it goes!

    Kerrie

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  • By Briar Rose

    Thank you, Kerrie! I talked with my ophthalmologist in more depth today about the visual snow and pain behind my eyes, and the possibility of it all being caused by migraines. He said it’s definitely common, but one weird thing… the visual snow I experience is ongoing. It isn’t something that comes on just before a headache and eventually goes away, but is something that I always have. He said that this didn’t sound consistent with migraines, but wanted to be clear that he’s not an expert and said it could still be a symptom. In the reading I’ve done, migraine with aura makes it sound like the symptoms come and go as the headache comes and goes. Is there such a thing as chronic migraine with aura? I’m so excited to see a new doctor about this. Thanks again!

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  • By Katie M. Golden Moderator

    BriarRose,
    Apparently you are not alone in having constant visual snow with Migraines in between. I just did some research and found there are other Migraine patients who experience this symptom as well. A potential diagnosis is called “persistent aura without infarction,” meaning that the aura never dissapates. Valproic Acid has been known to help this condition.

    We have limited information on our site about this condition, but I was able to find some other info by googling the term “persistent aura without infarction.” Also you should know that if your doctor is not very knowledgable on this topic, a neuro-opthamologist would probably be the best type of specialist for you to see with these symptoms.
    Let us know how it goes!
    https://migraine.com/pro/ichd-migraine-diagnosis/persistent-aura-without-infarction-ichd-2/

    -Katie

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  • By Kerrie Smyres Moderator

    I know you’re early in the process, but wanted to share this information with links to lists of headache specialists: https://migraine.com/blog/looking-for-a-migraine-specialist/. If there’s someone on the list in your area (and covered by your insurance), you might avoid some frustration by getting to a headache specialist soon. Katie’s suggestion of a neuro-ophthalmologist is a great one, but wanted you to know there are other options if you can’t find one near you.

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  • By Anonymous

    I know what its like aswell,
    the head ache symptoms can be frightening especially if you get different ones throughout the year or so, I think maybe if you think too much about them it may make you depressed but I also know its impossible not to obviously if you have the pain , but I find myself anyway, once you start to get a bit of control over them , just being aware what triggers what , I find that helps me, I find I used to try too hard almost trying to prevent them but now I take a step back and release it doesnt happen like that , need to take time slowly to become aware of your own triggers, and as a friend told me before about her boyfriend- small graduall changes make the best difference to anything, so especially with food or lifestyle, caffeine for example, chocolate, even computers – too much staring at the screen, stress – whatever stresses you, maybe negative people who are no help , anything . I feel what you are on about though, nice to hear others who I can relate to with this condition.

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  • By Kerrie Smyres Moderator

    That’s a great question and I’m not really sure of the answer. I’d probably see what she came up with on her own, then, if she doesn’t mention it, ask it it could be migraine. Some might see this as a test, but I think it’s more about not clouding her judgement before she has the chance to apply her existing knowledge to the situation.

    If you do wind up seeing a neurologist, remember that they may have very little training in migraine. A neurologist is like a general practitioner of neurology — they know about a wide range of neurological issues, but not necessarily any particular one in depth. Migraine (and headache disorder) training is sorely lacking, even for neurologists. The person you see may be of great help, I just don’t want to you to get discouraged if they aren’t.

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  • By Migraner's Wife

    BriarRose,

    My husband has had daily headaches with exacerbation to migraine status for years. His migraines have been closer together and lasting for longer periods of time. We have gone the route of many different preventative treatments, botox, and rescue meds with little helpful results. Even trips to the hospital for IV infusions have been futile. He is now seeing a headache/pain specialist. At this time we are working with a diagnosis of cervicogenic headaches caused by facet joint disease. He has had two diagnostic injections to the sites and today he is having an ablation of the nerves in those areas. No treatment is guaranteed, but keep searching. We have to keep hope alive.

    nursevh

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  • By Briar Rose

    You both have been invaluable in helping me! Thank you so much! I had never heard of persistent aura without infarction, but it does seem like a great candidate for what I’ve been experiencing. I don’t expect the new primary doctor I’ll be seeing to know much about it honestly, since Google is telling me it’s kind of rare, but, there is one neurologist in town that accepts my insurance, and while he isn’t a neuro-ophthalmologist, he might be my best bet.

    Semi related… would you recommend going in to an appointment stating that I think this may be what I’m experiencing, or should I simply state my symptoms and let the doctors come up with a diagnosis organically? I’m just not sure which technique would get the best results. Thank you so much again! I’m so incredibly glad to have found this website!

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  • By Anonymous

    I recommend you to use your own mind, I wont tell you , Im not a doctor . I dont know if you should go to the doctor but it would no harm if you want to ask and get help .

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  • By Briar Rose

    HammerHead, your comments are very nice and thoughtful. Thank you. I will say that due to a recent history of many different health concerns, I have learned not to panic or exaggerate about any malady, and so this new realization that I may also have migraines isn’t affecting my mood or personality much. It’s actually quite a joyful thing to find names and explanations for some of the strange things one feels I think (and gosh, some of the aura symptoms can be pretty strange it seems). I may or may not have any luck finding a doctor nearby who can be of much help, but I intend to at least try. I do understand what you’re saying about the power of one’s mind over how it perceives things, and how this can effect any given experience, and I find it fascinating. But I also feel that some things are still out of our mind’s control. Having other health problems has taught me that I really don’t “own” my body; that I don’t have the ultimate control over it. I can influence, but I don’t think I can always cure. I’m just interested in getting educated about all of this. If you have any particular tips, I’d always be interested in learning more!

    Thanks, but also my question still stands about whether or not it’d be best to go in to my upcoming doctor appointment stating what I think might be going on, or simply giving her my symptoms and letting her come up with a diagnosis organically? This will be a primary care physician. Thank you again!

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  • By Tammy Rome

    I read that you are still wondering how to address your symptoms with your PCP. How you approach it depends a lot on the relationship you have with your doctor. If you’ve known her for a long time and have a good rapport, then asking her straight up if she thinks you have migraines might be beneficial. However, if you don’t know her well and can’t predict her response, then just give her all your symptoms, maybe mention migraine. If you don’t get a satisfactory response, then I’d start seriously looking for a headache specialist from the links provided earlier. Good luck at your appointment!

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