There is no specific test to diagnose migraines. Your GP has to observe a pattern of recurring headaches along with the other symptoms.
Migraines can be unpredictable. Getting an accurate diagnosis can take time.
Contacting your GP
Your GP may carry out a physical examination and check your:
These will help rule out some other possible causes of your symptoms.
They may ask if your headaches are:
- on 1 side of the head
- a pulsating pain
- severe enough to prevent you carrying out daily activities
- made worse by physical activity or moving about
- accompanied by feeling and being sick
- accompanied by sensitivity to light and noise
It can be useful to keep a diary of your migraine attacks for a few weeks. This can help with your diagnosis.
Note down details including:
- the date of your migraine
- the time of your migraine
- what you were doing when the migraine began
- how long the attack lasted
- what symptoms you had
- what medicines you took (if any)
Taking painkillers often is one reason why migraines can become difficult to treat. Doing this can cause a medicine overuse headache.
Overuse headaches are usually caused by taking painkillers on a long-term basis. They are not because of taking too many painkillers, or just sticking to the recommended dose.
It'll be helpful to keep a record of:
- what painkillers you take
- how often you take them
You should not take painkillers on more than 10 days every month in the long term.
It may also be helpful for women to make a note when they start their period. This can help your GP to identify potential triggers.
Referral to a specialist
Your GP may decide to refer you to a neurologist. This is a specialist in conditions affecting the brain and nervous system.
They may do further assessment and treatment if:
- a diagnosis is unclear
- you have migraines on 15 days or more a month (chronic migraine)
- treatment is not helping to control your symptoms
Content supplied by the NHS and adapted for Ireland by the HSE