What are migraines?
Migraines are a condition that countless people live with, and often do not seek treatment for. They are severe headaches that come in episodes lasting around 2 to 72 hours. If you have migraines, you may also experience other symptoms such as vomiting, vision problems (seeing blind spots and increased sensitivity to light), sensitivity to sound, and body weakness.
Migraines are a recurring condition, and can often happen multiple times per month or per year. There are two types of migraines: migraines with aura, which are rare, and migraines without aura. It is common to treat migraines by using over-the-counter painkillers. However, in some cases, migraines can be severe even after taking these medicines. Such condition can be a sign of chronic migraines or other complications.
Living with migraines is never easy since the condition is incurable, unpredictable, and severely debilitating. Fortunately, with medication and lifestyle changes, migraines can be effectively managed. Each person’s migraine attack is different from the other. The severity, frequency, and even the duration of an attack differ from person-to-person. Even the triggers leading up to a migraine are considerably different. For some, coffee may be a trigger, while for others, coffee may just ease the pain, thereby making it difficult to pinpoint the exact cause of migraines. Even though the exact cause of migraines has not yet been determined, certain factors have been identified as triggers.
While you may not be able to get rid of migraines, doctors can help treat the symptoms. Proper treatment of the symptoms can make a life with migraines easier to live. Often mistaken for an allergy or a medication side effect, migraines are frequently ignored, despite the excruciating symptoms. However, it is in your best interest that you consult a doctor. Seek immediate medical attention if you think you may be displaying symptoms of a migraine attack.
What is a neurologist?
A neurologist is a doctor, who specializes in headaches and brain-related problems. Neurologists can sometimes be found in large hospitals, in their specific department. Other neurologists can be found in certified clinics. A neurologist carries out the medical examination of a patient and works to provide the right diagnosis and treatment.
In case the recommended treatment is not working well, or you have unusual symptoms, your doctor will recommend consulting a neurologist.
When should you see a neurologist?
Before going over what to expect from a neurologist, let’s first consider when to make an appointment with a neurologist. Here are some factors that you should consider:
- If you are experiencing migraine headaches at 50 years old
- Having migraine headaches more than two times a week
- Experiencing headache pains after a head injury
- Experiencing severe neurological symptoms, such as dizziness, confusion, nausea, vomiting, and blurry vision
- Severe headaches even after undergoing treatment
- If headache pains make it difficult for you to work
- If your headaches interfere with your speech
- If your headache is getting worse, and not getting better with time and treatment
Questions to Expect from a Neurologist
Neurologists use your medical history as a very important tool in diagnosing your condition. Before a neurologist conducts any tests, he or she will require you to give a comprehensive history of your past experiences with migraines. Some of the things you should know before you visit a neurologist include:
- When you started having migraines
- Factors that aggravate your migraines
- Factors that reduce your migraines
- The relationship between your migraines and sound or light
- Your typical sleeping habits
- For women, any link between menstruation and your symptoms
- The connection between certain foods and your symptoms
- Family history of the condition
- Frequency of your symptoms
It is advisable to maintain a migraine diary to record not just details of your attack, but also the setting leading up to the attack, such as the food you ate, weather, activity, or any change in your routine. The diary will help the doctor understand your case better and suggest a more effective treatment plan. It also helps identify reactionary triggers.
Depending on what the doctor suspects, he or she may order diagnostic tests, such as blood tests, spinal fluid tests, and imaging tests.
How should you prepare before visiting a neurologist?
Depending on the type of response you expect from a neurologist, you may not know how to fully prepare for your appointment. Here are some of the steps you should take before seeing a neurologist.
1. List all the symptoms you typically have.
It is important that you take note all of the symptoms that you are experiencing, even if they seem unrelated to your migraine attacks. Nothing should be considered too small or insignificant. It is important to be honest in your interaction with the neurologist; doing so will assist the doctor in evaluating your circumstances better.
2. List any medications you have been using.
Don’t just include the medication that you may be currently consuming for your migraine, but also mention your regular dose of vitamins and supplements. In case you have gone through recent surgery or other treatments, make sure you inform the doctor about it.
3. Take note of any important factors you might have noticed.
Include anything that stands out as a change in pattern, such as stress.
Before visiting a neurologist, you can also write down any questions you may want to ask. They may include:
- What can trigger a migraine?
- What tests am I supposed to have?
- Are my migraines a recurring condition?
- Can my migraines be a chronic condition?
- What are the effects of my previous medications to my condition?
- Are there any other causes of my migraine symptoms?
- Is this the only approach possible or are there any alternatives?
- Do you recommend any dietary or lifestyle changes? If yes, please elaborate.
These questions are simply guidelines to initiate a conversation. Depending on the answers, you can ask additional questions. Don’t be hesitant and ensure that you clarify all your doubts.
The Bottom Line
Visiting a neurologist opens up a better path for proper treatment. To help a neurologist construct the best possible treatment plan, you should be ready for your appointment and provide the correct information.