22nd July 2019

World Brain Day 2019

The Migraine Trust highlights the importance of a migraine diagnosis for World Brain Day 2019

It’s World Brain Day and this year’s focus is on migraine. Organised by the World Federation of Neurology and International Headache Society, this is a truly global effort and a golden opportunity to raise awareness and increase understanding of a widely misunderstood and often dismissed condition.

The emphasis of this global campaign is to reveal the painful truth about migraine. Chief among them is that despite it affecting one in seven people worldwide, and despite it often severely impacting on every aspect of a person’s life, it is under-recognised, under-diagnosed and under-treated.

Put simply, we need more recognition of migraine, by people with the condition and by the healthcare community. That will lead to more people getting a timely and accurate diagnosis, which is essential for effective treatment.

One of our Medical Trustees, Dr Shazia Afridi, a Consultant Neurologist at Guy’s and St Thomas’ NHS Trust, runs the headache service in the neurology department.  We asked her about the vital importance of diagnosis.

Dr Shazia Afridi
Dr Shazia Afridi

Do you find that many of your patients have had migraine for several years before they are diagnosed?

I often see people in my clinic who have had migraine for years but have never been properly diagnosed.

Some were misdiagnosed by their GP as having tension-type headache.

Others think that their headaches are ‘normal headaches’ as they come from families where everyone has headaches and so they may not see their GP about their headaches.

It is also not uncommon for people with migraine to be referred because they or their GP were concerned that they have a brain tumour because their headaches were so bad. People with migraine even present through the Accident and Emergency Department.

What causes the delay in the diagnosis?

Sometimes there is a misconception that in order to have migraine there must be vomiting or there must be visual disturbance (aura).

Unfortunately, I think there is still a lack of awareness and understanding about migraine both amongst the general public and the medical profession. This is something we need to address through better education of medical trainees.

Does a delay in diagnosis impact on their treatment options once they are diagnosed?

The delay in diagnosis does not have any impact on treatment options but it may mean that people are using inappropriate treatments such as overusing painkillers instead of being on a migraine preventive.

What would you say to someone who thinks that they might have migraine and is not seeing a doctor about it?

If someone thinks they might have migraine, it is a good idea to talk to their GP. The GP will  have access to a wider range of treatments than just over-the-counter painkillers. Over-the-counter painkillers may not be sufficient and in some cases may worsen people’s headaches if overused.

Symptoms of migraine

Not everyone will have a ‘typical’ migraine. There are different types of migraine that involve different symptoms. The most common symptoms of a migraine attack include throbbing headache, sensitivity to light and noise, nausea (feeling sick), vomiting (being sick) and lethargy (lack of energy).

  • You can read more about the symptoms and stages of migraine here.
  • You can learn about the different types of migraine here.

Think you might have migraine?

You can find out about getting the most out of your visit to your GP here and how a diagnosis is made here.

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  • Please support World Brain Day by sharing this article on social media with the hashtag #WBD2019