Updated 22 February 2016

Diagnosing migraines

For a diagnosis of migraine to be made, a doctor needs to examine the patient's medical history and perform a physical examination.


To diagnose migraine, a doctor needs to find out the patient's medical history and do a physical examination.

Anyone who regularly suffers from migraines should consult a doctor who should make a diagnosis based on what structure the pain comes from.

Many doctors make a diagnosis based on the symptoms, but this frequently leads to misdiagnosis and the wrong treatment. 

The patient’s history and a physical exam are all that is needed to diagnose migraine headaches. Additional tests are only needed to help diagnose other conditions which may cause similar symptoms.

Brain scans are not necessary unless the initial neurological examination suggests that one should be done. 

Read more: 

What is a migraine? 

Causes of migraines  

Treating migraines 

Reviewed by Dr Elliot Shevel, BDS, Dip MFOS, MB, BCh, Maxillo-facial and Oral Surgeon and Medical Director, The Headache Clinic, Johannesburg and Cape Town, February 2015.


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Dr Elliot Shevel is a South African migraine surgery pioneer and the founder and medical director of The Headache Clinic in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, South Africa. The Headache Clinic is a multidisciplinary practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of Primary Headaches and Migraines. Dr Shevel is also the main author of all scientific publications generated by his team. He recently won a high level science debate in which he was able to prove that the current migraine diagnosis and classification is not based on data. Tertiary Education - Dr Shevel holds both Dental and Medical degrees, and practises as a specialist Maxillo-facial and Oral Surgeon. Follow the Headache Clinic on Twitter@HeadacheClinic.

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