What Tests Can Be Done to Find the Cause of My Migraines?

Health Professional

Full Question:

What testing can be done to find out what is causing my migraines? I have had multiple MRIs over the past 12 yrs but yet no answers on what's causing them. Is there something else out there that my doctor might be missing? Thanks for your help, Dora.

Full Answer:

Dear Dora:

Let's start by clarifying the difference between cause and triggers. Migraine is a genetic neurological disease caused by genetic predisposition and an overly sensitive brain that responds to our triggers by starting a wave of irregular electrical activity that sweeps across the brain. Triggers are external stimuli that bring on - trigger - a migraine attack.

Imaging studies such as MRI's are done to rule out other causes of our symptoms. Causes such as stroke, aneurysm, and tumor. The studies are performed because there's no diagnostic test to confirm migraine. It's diagnosed by looking at personal and family medical history, reviewing symptoms, conducting a neurological exam, and ruling out other causes for the symptoms. That's called a "diagnosis of exclusion."

Trigger identification and management is a vital part of migraine management. Some triggers, once identified, are avoidable. Others aren't, but it's still helpful to know what's triggering migraines. Here are links to information about migraine triggers:

A migraine diary is vitally important to helping identify triggers and spot patterns. You can read about keeping a diary and download a free diary workbook in Your Migraine and Headache Diary.

Thanks for your excellent question,
David Watson, MD, and Teri Robert


About Ask the Clinician:

Dr. David Watson is a UCNS certified migraine and headache specialists and director of the Headache Center at West Virginia University. He and Lead Health Guide Teri Robert, team up to answer your questions about headaches and Migraines. You can read more about _ Dr. Watson_ or more about _** Teri Robert** _.

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