Advances in Migraine Diagnosis
It is undeniable that there have been vast advances in migraine diagnosis over the years. Much of the recent rise in the numbers of those afflicted with migraine disease is attributable to better diagnostics.
A century ago, migraine sufferers were largely a silent population. Their seemingly erratic behavior led others to consider them eccentric or insane, and in some cases they were thought to be alcoholics or drug addicts. Now that migraine disease is easier to diagnose, those suffering from the disease have many more options available for treatment.
Perhaps the single most important factor in modern migraine diagnosis is the fact that medical professionals are trained in recognizing the symptoms. “A really bad headache” is one clue, but now it is well established that noise and light sensitivity, nausea and vomiting, visual disturbances and dizziness are all common symptoms of a migraine. The ease with which doctors can recognize these symptoms allows for faster and more accurate diagnoses.
In recent years, migraines were easily confused with other types of headaches. Sinus headache, tension headache, cluster headache, and migraine all share similar components, so their confusion is understandable. However, as medical professionals have learned more about migraine-specific symptoms, correct diagnoses allow for significantly better treatment.
Sinus headaches will not respond to triptan medication; conversely, a migraine is generally not relieved with saline spray and steam. Learning to distinguish and isolate headache characteristics has been a tremendous boon for migraineurs and their ability to obtain effective treatment.
While migraine is very difficult to confirm using modern diagnostic and imaging equipment, these tests are invaluable in ensuring that a migraine is not in fact a more life-threatening condition. Electroencephalogram (EEG) can show brain malfunction, CT and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans can identify brain tumors and many other abnormalities. When someone experiences “the worst headache of her life,” diagnostic neuroimaging can be a lifesaving procedure.