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Is My Headache a Migraine?
Symptoms of Migraine Headaches
Screening and Diagnosis for Migraines
Treatment Options for Migraines
What is The Treatment for Moderate or Severe Migraines?
Alternative Ways for Treating Migraines
How Can You Prevent or Avoid Migraines?
What Are Migraine Triggers?
Prophylactic Medications to Reduce or Avoid Migraines
Types of Migraines
Cryotherapy:  Ice Relief for Migraine Headaches
An Optical Migraine FAQ
Migraines and Pregnancy
The Art of Massaging Migraine Headaches
Migraine Headaches and the Weather
Menstrual Migraines
Migraines and the Smoking Connection
Well-Known Migraine Triggers
The Migraine-Aspartame Connection
Stress & the Migraine Sufferer
Sexually-Triggered Migraines
Eye Problems & Migraines
Fragrance Migraine Triggers
Treating Menstrual Migraines
Migraine Treatment:  A Natural Approach

Screening  and Diagnosis for Migraines

A person with a family medical history of migraines will usually be diagnosed by his doctor based on his medical history as well as a routine medical examination. However, if the headaches are abnormal, sudden or severe, the doctor might suggest a variety of tests in order to rule out some other feasible culprits. A few of the methods used:

  • CT - Computerized Tomography. This is an imaging procedure which uses computer-directed x-rays.These x-rays provide a cross-section view of the patient's brain. The CT helps the doctor diagnose a possible tumor, infection, or other problems that could be causing headaches.
  • MRI - Magnetic Resonance Imaging. This procedure uses radio waves plus a powerful magnet in order to produce a cross-sectional view of the patient's brain. This image is quite detailed and helps the doctor diagnose tumors, aneurysms, strokes, neurological diseases, plus other brain abnormalities. The MRI can also examine the patient's blood vessels supplying the brain.
  • Spinal Tap. When a doctor suspects meningitis, subarachnoid hemorrhage or other underlying condition as the cause of the headaches, he might suggest a spinal tap. This is a procedure in which the medical staff inserts a thin needle between two vertebrae in the patient's lower back in order to extract some spinal fluid for lab analysis. The procedure takes around half an hour.

IN some instances, a person's effort to control his pain causes problems. For instance, drugs like ibuprofen and aspirin could cause abdominal pain, ulcers and bleeding, especially when large doses are taken, or when it's taken for a long time. Also, if the person takes headache medications (whether prescription or over-the-counter) for more than a few times a week, or takes an excessive amount, he could be setting himself up for something called rebound headaches. These occur when the medicines stop relieving pain and eventually even start causing headaches themselves. The person then uses more pain medication, which aggravates the problem, and creates a vicious cycle.

Another complication you should be aware of can potentially be life-threatening. It is a drug interaction known as serotonin syndrome. Serotonin syndrome sometimes occurs if a patient is taking migraine medication known as triptans. Some triptans include zolmitriptan (Zomig) and sumatriptan (Imitrex).Others are antidepressants such as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, selective serotonin, or norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors. Some of the brand names to watch for include Zoloft, Pavil, Prozac, Effexor and Cymbalta. Serotonin syndrome is extremely rare, but it is something to consider as you discuss medication options with your doctor.

There are six questions that a doctor might ask the patient to determine if headaches are migraines are regular tension headaches. 1) Does the patient experience nausea in conjunction with the headaches? 2) Does he experience sensitivity to light? 3) Does he experience sensitivity to sound?  4) Does physical activity make the headache worse?  5) Is the headache restricted to one side of the head?  6) Is the pain a pounding /throbbing pain?  A "yes" answer to several of these questions often indicates a migraine.

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