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Migraines often undiagnosed, expert says

Migraines often undiagnosed

People who don’t know whether their headache is just a headache or a migraine may be missing out on useful treatments, according to an expert at the American Migraine Foundation (AMF).


AMF chair Dr. David Dodick said, “Migraine is not just a headache, but a neurological disorder that has a wide variety of symptoms and specific treatments.”

Migraine affects between 36 million and 40 million Americans, but many sufferers never receive a formal diagnoses or proper treatment from a specialist, Dodick said. Migraine ranks in the top 20 of the world’s most disabling medical illnesses.

Symptoms of migraine include:

  • Moderate to severe headache
  • Throbbing or pulsating pain, usually on one side of the head
  • Sensitivity to light, sound and sometimes smell
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Blurred vision
  • Lightheadedness
  • Difficulty concentrating

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Migraine headaches may also be triggered by stress, changes in the weather, alcohol, altitude, and menstruation.

“These are some of the characteristics of migraine that differentiate it from other types of headache, and if you have any one of these symptoms, you should strongly consider speaking with your health care provider about the possibility of migraine," Dodick said.

"Physicians who are specially trained in treating migraine and other headache disorders can provide an accurate diagnosis, and a comprehensive treatment plan that can make living with migraine more manageable."

A recent study published in the journal Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery – Global Open found that migraine sufferers are more likely to have carpal tunnel syndrome and vice versa. Thirty-four percent of people with carpal tunnel syndrome also had migraine, compared to 16 percent of people without carpal tunnel syndrome. Eight percent of migraine sufferers also had carpal tunnel syndrome, while only three percent of people without migraine had carpal tunnel syndrome. The risk of carpal tunnel syndrome was 2.7 times higher among migraine sufferers after adjusting for other factors.