By Margaret A. Caudill-Slosberg, MD
July 15, 2003
If you feel you may be experiencing migraine headaches, you should start to keep a diary that tracks the process to help you understand your particular recipe for problems. You can create a printable journal online. You will want to track:
When the migraine began, including both the day and the time.
How long the headache lasted (be sure to include anything you noticed prior to the actual headache).
How intense the pain was, as well as keeping track of whether you experience nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, or constipation.
What were you sensitive to during the headache? If you can make a determination, write that down as well.
Did you take any medications within 48 hours of the start of the headache? If so, note them, being sure to include the name of the medication, what time you took it, what dose you took and the results.
If you had foods that may have triggered your attack
How was your sleep for the two days prior to getting the migraine?
What was the weather like?
Can you think of any other items you feel may have contributed? If so, don't be shy about including them.
Seeking Professional Help
Once you've tracked your migraines a few times, you may be able to see patterns emerging. This migraine diary will also be useful for your health care provider in determining what plan of action to pursue. If you have not sought help before, ask your family doctor if they have been successful in treating patients with migraine headaches, or if they feel you should see a specialist for this problem. Seeking help can feel somewhat overwhelming because many people may experience such a mixture of feelings about their headaches. Some are embarrassed, thinking they somehow cause the problem, or that they are overreacting. Others are frightened or worried that they may have something really serious going on. Regardless of your feelings and fears, talking to a doctor about your headaches is a positive first step in determining how to manage your pain.
A migraine workup will help you to get a handle on your headaches. You definitely want to be sure what you are experiencing is migraine, so you need to rule out other causes.
Your doctor will ask when you began having headaches, what triggers them, what they feel like, etc. This is where your migraine diary will come in very handy!
You will want to get a physical exam. Checking your vital signs, eyes, ears, nose, mouth, throat, neck, head, general strength and reflexes is of great benefit in determining your health in general and beginning the process of diagnosing migraine.
You will most likely have lab tests to look for changes in blood chemistry to rule out any underlying disorders. Although there is currently no blood test to prove someone suffers from migraine, these tests help to rule out other causes.