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Diagnosis Neurology & Neurosurgery


Migraines are diagnosed, based on the description of your symptoms. There's no medical test that can specifically identify the condition. Your doctor will ask about the severity, frequency and duration of your headaches as well as other symptoms you experience and any medications you take.

Before meeting with a headache specialist, maintaining a headache journal that tracks headache patterns — can provide helpful information for your diagnosis and treatment. Information to note in your journal includes:

  • Duration of pain
  • Location and severity of pain
  • Medications taken
  • Possible headache triggers

If your headache is associated with visual symptoms such as flashing or zig-zagging lights, blind spots or numbness on one side of the head, it is called migraine with "aura," previously known as classic or classical migraine. About 20 percent of people with migraine experience this type of headache.

UCSF Health medical specialists have reviewed this information. It is for educational purposes only and is not intended to replace the advice of your doctor or other health care provider. We encourage you to discuss any questions or concerns you may have with your provider.