Diagnosing migraine 

There is no specific test to diagnose migraines. For an accurate diagnosis to be made, your GP must identify a pattern of recurring headaches along with the associated symptoms.

Migraines can be unpredictable, sometimes occurring without the other symptoms. So obtaining an accurate diagnosis can sometimes take a long time.

On your first visit, your GP may carry out a physical examination and check your vision, co-ordination, reflexes and sensations. These will help rule out some other possible underlying causes of your symptoms.

Your GP may ask if your headaches are:

  • on one 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 nausea and vomiting
  • accompanied by sensitivity to light and noise

To help with the diagnosis, it can be useful to keep a diary of your migraine attacks for a few weeks. Note down details including the date, time, what you were doing when the migraine began, how long the attack lasted, what symptoms you experienced and what medication you took (if any).

It may also be helpful to make a note of the food you ate that day and, for women, when you started your period, as this can help your GP identify potential triggers.

Referral to a specialist

Your GP may decide to refer you to a neurologist (a specialist in conditions affecting the brain and nervous system) for further assessment and treatment if a diagnosis is unclear, you experience migraines on 15 days or more per month (chronic migraine), or treatment is not helping to control your symptoms.

Keeping a migrane diary might be helpful 

Page last reviewed: 14/04/2014

Next review due: 14/04/2016