4 Things a Migraine Doctor Wants You to Know
Good communication with doctors is vital to correct diagnosis and treatment. Sometimes, though, it’s hard to talk, or know if you should even go see a doctor. Here are some things your doctor would like you to know about migraine consultations:
#1 — Don’t Be Scared or Embarrassed
Talking to a doctor often involves subjects we’d rather keep to ourselves. There could be any number of reasons for this, from social phobias to a fear of hearing something serious is wrong, or just because we don’t want to appear weak in front of others. We may feel embarrassed we can’t cope, because it’s just a headache.
But doctors have seen and heard everything before, probably several times this week. They never view patients asking for help as weak, because seeking help takes a certain amount of bravery. Doctors understand the debilitating nature of migraine, so try to overcome any hesitancy.
#2 — Ask Questions
A well-informed patient is easier to treat, so never be afraid to ask questions about your migraine condition. These include:
- What symptoms to expect, and which should prompt a return visit to the doctor
- What symptoms you should treat as an emergency
- What to do if worrying new symptoms occur out of hours?
Expressing fears and concerns is vital. If you don’t understand anything, don’t hesitate to say so, asking the doctor to explain again. It’s okay to repeat the explanation back in your own words, so you’re sure you’ve understood properly. Doing this helps prevent misunderstandings.
Ask about treatments, medications and possible side effects. Make sure you understand different types of medication, such as whether it’s acute care or preventive.
In diagnosing migraine, much depends on how you describe your symptoms. Your individual headache pattern may prompt the doctor to order further tests to rule out other medical causes.
You can also ask how to keep a migraine diary or identify your triggers and what lifestyle changes might benefit you. Before you visit the doctor, it’s helpful to make a list of questions so you get the most out of your consultation.
#3 — Don’t Assume You Are Fine
While migraines are unpleasant, most are not dangerous and, if you are a long-term sufferer, it’s easy to dismiss every attack as simply another episode.
There are times, however, when symptoms change, which can indicate other conditions. Most are not serious but some may need urgent care. Knowing your migraine pattern thoroughly enables you to recognize the difference, and your migraine diary can help with this.
If you have experience of the following as new symptoms that you haven’t discussed with your doctor, you should make an appointment.
- Feeling short of breath
- Stiff neck, or new symptoms affecting the nose, throat, ears or eyes
- Slurred speech
- Weakness or paralysis
- Persistent diarrhea
- Vision loss
More Serious Complications
There’s evidence that migraine is linked to ischemic stroke. Higher risk patients include women under 45, those who have migraine with aura, women taking the contraceptive pill, and smokers who have migraine with aura. The reason for the link is not known, with research focusing on underlying vascular differences or a tendency towards blood clots, among others.
If your migraine is worse than it’s ever been, or you have new symptoms such as loss of vision that doesn’t improve, you lose consciousness or experience persistent vomiting, you should seek urgent medical care.
Similarly, if your normal medication stops working, your episodes become more frequent or you experience unusual triggers such as when you sneeze, bend over, cough or during sex, you shouldn’t assume all is fine and will get better. Make it a priority to see your doctor.
#4 — There Are Treatments
There are no outright cures for migraine yet, but there are many treatment options to help manage the condition. They include:
- Pain Relieving Medication: These include Triptans, a common form of pain relief for migraine that works by helping to constrict the blood vessels and block pain pathways to the brain. You may also be offered medication to help control nausea or dizziness.
- Surgical Procedures: Nerve Release surgery relieves compression of the nerves that trigger pain. Options include surgery performed on the Supra-Orbital Nerve (in the forehead), or the Greater Occipital Nerve (which provides feeling for the top and back of the head). Both are minimally invasive. Other types include pain blocking via tiny electrodes under the skin.
- Botox: Just as for beauty treatments, injections in the forehead can block pain and bring long lasting relief from migraine.
- Alternative Treatments: You could explore various health alternatives, including herbal treatment, massage, or lifestyle changes.
Communication is key when seeking diagnosis or treatment, so talk openly to your doctor and don’t be afraid to ask questions. You won’t be the first, or last, to visit the surgery with migraine.
Dr. Mark Khorsandi works at the Migraine Relief Center. They provide surgical treatments that reduce and eliminate pain for migraine sufferers.