Migraines commonly misdiagnosed

Most Doctor Visits for Headache Due to Migraine

Most people who go to their doctor complaining of episodic headaches have migraines. They are, however, commonly misdiagnosed. The doctor’s misdiagnosis is often the result of a patient’s mistaken self-diagnosis.

In one study, which enrolled 1,217 patients going to a doctor and having a complaint of headache, each patient made a self-diagnosis, and was given a diagnosis by their doctor. The patients then kept a journal of their next six headaches.

Some patients (400 of them) given a diagnosis of migraine or non-migraine headache were reviewed by the researchers. The panel assigned a diagnosis based on International Headache Society criteria. 94% had either migraine or migrainous headaches. The panel then compared their findings to the doctors’ diagnosis.

If the doctor diagnosed the headache as migraine, 98% of the time he or she was correct. If primary care doctors diagnosed non-migraine, there was an 80% likelihood the patient had migraine. If the patients self-diagnosed non-migraine, there was an 85% likelihood the patient had migraine.

The most common cause of a misdiagnosis seemed to be an inaccurate self-diagnosis by the patient. If the patient didn’t think that the headache was a migraine, then the GP would agree. The patients’ opinion seemed to carry more weight than the frequency or the intensity of the headaches.

14th Migraine Trust International Symposium London September 24, 2002

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