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13 Questions You Should Ask Your Doctor If You Have Migraine

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Seeing a doctor for your migraine symptoms can feel overwhelming at first. In fact, out of the nearly one billion people who live with migraine, less than 50 percent of them see a doctor for their condition. Many people worry that they won’t be taken seriously, while others just don’t know what questions to ask.

As someone who has battled chronic migraine for nearly half of my life, I am here to reassure you that no matter how frequently or infrequently you experience migraine attacks, you have every right to seek medical help for your condition. Furthermore, you should ask any doctor you see about your migraine symptoms these 13 questions.

1. Are you the best doctor for me, or would I benefit from a migraine specialist?

If you are seeking help for your migraine for the first time, you may just see your primary care physician or a local neurologist. While these doctors are certainly equipped to diagnose and even prescribe medications for your migraine, they may not have the most cutting-edge knowledge about migraine diagnosis or treatment options. Furthermore, these doctors may not understand the nuances of specific types of migraine because it’s not what they specialize in.

While they are certainly less common, a headache specialist is the best option, especially if you live with chronic migraine (meaning you experience migraine at least 15 days per month). These doctors understand that migraine is a neurological condition, they know the ins and outs of different types of migraine, and they are often the first to learn about new treatment methods that may help. Therefore, it’s OK to ask your doctor if they are the best option or if they have a headache specialist they can refer you to.

2. What do you think is causing my migraine attacks?

While migraine is still a largely unstudied chronic illness, doctors have identified some possible causes of migraine, such as changes in the brainstem and trigeminal nerve, or imbalances in brain chemicals. Based on the details about your migraine, your doctor may be able to pinpoint some potential causes.

3. How can I pinpoint migraine triggers?

If you live with migraine, then pinpointing your triggers is the best preventative measure you can take. However, there are at least a dozen common migraine triggers, and not everyone with migraine is impacted by every single trigger. Your doctor may have suggestions on how you can pinpoint these triggers, which may ultimately help you decrease the frequency of your migraine attacks.

4. Should I take notes or keep a journal about my migraine symptoms?

Many experts strongly recommend keeping a migraine journal if you experience chronic migraine. This handy tool can help you keep track of the details of your migraine, including the dates, times, intensity, and length of your migraine attacks. Similarly, a migraine journal can help you pinpoint triggers, find treatment methods and prevention measures that work, and eliminate treatments that aren’t effective for you. All of this information can be helpful for you and your doctor.

5. Will you need to run any tests to diagnose my migraine?

Whether or not your migraine is connected to a secondary condition, your doctor may do a physical exam or conduct other tests to diagnose you. These tests may include blood work, a urinalysis, CT or MRI, or sinus x-ray. Depending on your doctor’s opinion of what is going on, there are other possible tests that they could also order. While tests can be stressful, they may help your doctor determine the best course of treatment for you.

6. What treatment options are available to me? Will these treatment options decrease the severity or frequency of my migraine symptoms?

Medications are the most commonly prescribed treatments for migraine, but the exact combination of preventative meds and pain relievers will depend on specifics. Make sure to ask your doctor questions about any medications they recommend, including how they may interact with medications you already take, like birth control pills or psychiatric medications.

7. What side effects can I expect with medications or other forms of treatment?

Unfortunately, all treatments come with potential side effects. It will help if you know which side effects are typical and which may be a sign that something isn’t right.

8. If I notice changes in my migraine symptoms, should I contact you?

One of the worst parts about living with migraine is that the frequency and severity of your symptoms can change at any time, sometimes with no obvious cause. Your doctor may need to know about any sudden changes, especially if it seems like your condition is worsening or you are experiencing new symptoms.

9. How long is too long for a migraine attack to last?

While a quick Google search will definitely tell you when to worry about migraine duration, your doctor may have a different amount of time in mind, especially depending on other concerns or the medications you are on. Therefore, it’s always best to get the answer straight from your doctor and follow their recommendations.

10. Could holistic treatments like supplements or acupuncture help me?

There are numerous holistic treatments out there. However, you may need to check with your doctor before pursuing them. For example, depending on the specifics of your condition, some supplements could interact with the medications you’re taking. So, always check with your doctor before trying any alternative treatments or non-prescription options.

11. Do you have any recommendations for other migraine symptoms I experience, such as nausea or vomiting?

While most doctors prescribe medications to help with pain management, you may also need something to help with other symptoms you experience as well, especially if these symptoms impact your ability to function on a daily basis. It’s OK to ask your doctor about things you can do or medications you can take to help with these symptoms as well.

12. Should I make any lifestyle changes? What’s the likelihood these will help my migraine symptoms?

Depending on your migraine triggers or the underlying cause, your doctor may have other ideas to help you manage your life with migraine. While some of these suggestions (like cutting out certain foods) aren’t always guaranteed to work, they may. So talk the options over with your doctor and see what they think is the best approach.

13. Is there any chance my migraine attacks will go away on their own?

Although it’s rare, sometimes migraine can go into remission. Your doctor can explain the different types of remission to you and may have some guess if there’s even a remote chance of that happening for you.

Getty image by bymuratdeniz.

Originally published: April 7, 2022
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