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The Type of Migraine Does Matter

"Migraine" is not a complete diagnosis.

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

You've been to the doctor, and he or she said you have Migraines or Migraine headaches. Diagnosis accomplished, right? Not really. Did your doctor tell you what type of Migraines you have? Why does it matter?

There are several different types of Migraine. And it does matter what type you have and that you know what type you have. Some medications shouldn't be taken with some types of Migraine. Some people have more than one type of Migraine. In fact, that's not unusual at all.

Migraine without aura is the most common type of Migraine. Migraine with aura is the second most common type. Approximately 20 - 25% of Migraineurs have Migraine with aura. Most people who have Migraine with aura do not have an aura with all of their Migraines; they also have Migraine without aura.

If you have Basilar-Type Migraine, most doctors do not prescribe the triptans (Imitrex, Maxalt, Zomig, Amerge, Relpax, Frova, Axert, Treximet). Triptans are generally not prescribed for people with Hemiplegic Migraine either, although one small study in which participants with Hemiplegic Migraine were given triptans did not show any problems.

There are times when Migraine symptoms are so similar to stroke symptoms that it's extremely difficult for the patient to know the difference. This is particularly true of Basilar-Type Migraine, Hemiplegic Migraine, and Retinal Migraine.

Sometimes, we can have many symptoms of a Migraine attack without the headache. This is usually acephalgic or "silent" Migraine. Abdominal Migraine is marked by stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting, and occurs mostly in children.

There are several reasons to have a really definitive diagnosis, to know what type or types of Migraines you have:

  • Migraine symptoms can be frightening, but they're less frightening when you understand them.
  • Knowing what type of Migraine you have helps ensure you receive the right treatment.
  • We can't call our doctors every time we have a Migraine. If we have more than one type, we need to be able to tell which type we're having and make appropriate treatment decisions for ourselves.
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