Skip to content

Migraines & Headaches Health Center

Font Size

Understanding Migraines -- Diagnosis and Treatment

How Are Migraines Diagnosed?

There is no specific test to diagnose a migraine headache. If you seek help from your health care provider for recurring headaches, you may be asked to keep a headache diary in which you record information about symptoms leading up to a headache, symptoms of the actual headache, and possible triggers that may have provoked the episode.

Your health care provider will want to take a careful history to determine any patterns to your headaches and to learn whether such headaches run in your family. He or she will also perform a careful physical exam to make sure you don't have any other symptoms or signs that point to another problem as the source of your headaches.

Recommended Related to Migraines/Headaches

What Is a Migraine With Aura?

There it is again -- that excruciating pain in your head from a migraine. The pain alone is enough to stop you from carrying on your daily activities. But even before the headache begins, you notice strange symptoms such as dizziness, ringing in your ears, seeing zigzag lines, and being sensitive to light. No doubt about it -- you have a painful, debilitating headache. But what makes this headache a migraine? And what does it mean to have a migraine with aura? How is this different from other h...

Read the What Is a Migraine With Aura? article > >

What Are the Treatments for Migraines?

There are two main approaches to migraine treatment. The first is stopping (aborting) an acute attack, if possible, or at least controlling the pain and nausea. The second approach is preventing future attacks.

Stopping Acute Migraine Pain

In abortive therapy, it's important to take medication at the first sign a migraine is coming. So, if you have an aura or other symptoms before the headache starts, take the medicine then. Many drugs can help, but the leading ones are called triptans. They come in different forms including dissolvable pills, regular pills, skin patches, and nasal spray. They include Imitrex, Zomig, Maxalt, and others. People respond differently, and one of these drugs may work better for you.

Ergot alkaloids are another class of drug that can be used to abort a migraine. The most popular one is dihydroergotamine (DHE). It is available as a nasal spray or an injection. NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as ketoprophen, Advil, or Motrin, may also stop a migraine attack. Often, doctors recommend taking antinausea drugs such as Reglan or Phenergan as well.

Your doctor may suggest the Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator (TMS), a prescription device placed on the back of the head at the onset of a migraine with aura. It then releases a pulse of magnetic energy and stimulates part of the brain, which may stop or lessen pain.

During an acute episode of migraine headache, you'll probably be most comfortable lying down in a darkened, quiet room and trying to sleep. A cold pack on your head may feel comforting. If you are unable to take medications by mouth or your symptoms don't improve, you may need to go to a hospital for treatment.

1 | 2 | 3

Today on WebMD

Business woman with hand on face and eyes closed
What aura looks like, triggers, and more.
woman with migraine
Get the truth about migraines.
headache in the bedroom
Keep headaches from ruining your sex life.
woman with hands on head
Test your knowledge of triggers, types, and more.
woman with migraine
drinking coffee
Migraines Headaches Basics
acupuncture needles in woman's back
Tired young man
spraying perfume
man with a headache
headache in the bedroom