How to talk to your doctor about migraines

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Who to talk to about your migraines

If you are experiencing migraine symptoms, it is a good idea to talk to a healthcare professional.

The symptoms associated with migraines are also common in a range of other disorders and illnesses so it is important to get professional medical help to rule out any other conditions.

Typically people experiencing migraine symptoms will first visit their primary care doctor or a general practitioner.

However, if your symptoms are very severe, you might be referred to a neurologist or headache specialist. Specialist help is usually recommended if your attacks are getting worse or if you have not responded to the treatment prescribed by your GP.1

When to seek help from a medical professional

It can be difficult to know when and how to talk to your doctor about migraines.

If you are experiencing migraine symptoms that prevent you from doing everyday activities like going to work or school, cleaning or exercising, it is important to seek medical help. 

Migraines can have a serious impact on your quality of life.2 Your doctor can help advise you on methods to manage your symptoms. including treatment options, lifestyle changes and preventatives.

Alternatively, if you are experiencing any of these symptoms you should get immediate medical attention3:

  • Severe symptoms that are new to you
  • Migraine symptoms coupled with fever
  • Weakness and extreme tiredness
  • Vision loss or double vision
  • Severe migraine symptoms during pregnancy

If you or someone you know is experiencing these symptoms, they could be a sign of a more serious condition so you need to get help.

Tips for how to talk to your doctor about migraines

When you talk to your doctor about migraines, it can be beneficial to go prepared to help you get the most out of your appointment.

Here are some tips to help you get ready to talk to your doctor.

Keep a migraine diary

Many people find it helpful to keep a migraine diary in preparation for talking to their doctor.

A migraine diary is used to record details about your migraine attacks. You can write down the date and time of your attack, what the symptoms were, how long the attack lasted and what triggers were also present. You can also use a headache and migraine tracking app to help you monitor your symptoms digitally. You can find migraine diaries available in our Tools and Resources section.

Assess the impact of your migraine

Taking the Migraine Disability Assessment (MIDAS) questionnaire can be helpful to get an idea of how much your life has been impacted by or how much of a disability you have because of migraine. The questionnaire calculates the number of days you have migraine and experience limitations in activities at work, school, and at home.

You can use the results from the MIDAS questionnaire to talk to your doctor about what you can do to reduce the impact of migraine, such as different treatment options and ways to manage migraine.

Provide details about your migraine symptoms

During your appointment, your doctor might ask you about your experiences of some common migraine symptoms.4

It is helpful to provide as much detail as possible on the symptoms you have day-to-day and during migraine attacks to help your doctor understand your condition better.

This might include:

  • One-sided (unilateral) headaches
  • Headaches that get worse with activity
  • Throbbing pain
  • Stabbing pain
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  • Sensitivity to sound (phonophobia)

Typically you will also be asked some questions about how severe your symptoms are, for instance: 

  • How long you’ve had your symptoms for
  • How often you have severe headaches
  • What makes your headaches worse
  • What triggers bring on severe headaches
  • What treatments you’ve tried and how effective you found them

Migraines are very individual and experiences of migraines vary a lot between different people. The more detail you can give your doctor about your own experiences, the more they will be able to understand what you are dealing with.

Write down any questions you have

Many doctors appreciate patients who ask questions about migraines so they can help you to manage your condition better.

You might find it helpful to ask what treatment options are available to you, if there are any lifestyle changes that your doctor suggests and what you can do to help make diagnosis easier.

If you’re nervous about how to talk to your doctor about migraines, you can prepare your questions in advance. Before you go to your appointment, think about any questions you have that you’d like to ask. It is a good idea to write them down so you can refer to them when you are with your doctor.

You can also use a doctor discussion guide to help you.

How to talk to your doctor about migraines

Many people with migraines don’t seek help from a medical professional. This means they don’t have access to prescription medication for the treatment of migraines.5

Though it can be hard to know how to talk to your doctor about migraines, it is important to get professional help to manage your symptoms and reduce the impact that migraines have on your life.

Being prepared for your appointment can help a lot. If you can provide details on your migraine symptoms and what you are experiencing, your doctor will be able to assess your condition more accurately and advise you on the best form of treatment.


  1. The Migraine Trust. Visiting your GP. [Last accessed July 2021]
  2. Lipton, RB et al. Migraine Headache Disability and Health-Related Quality-of-life: A Population-Based Case-Control Study from England. Cephalagia 2003; 23(6): 441-50.
  3. American Migraine Foundation. When to Go to the Emergency Room for a Headache or Migraine. [Last accessed July 2021]
  4. Kelman, L. Migraine Changes with Age: IMPACT on Migraine Classification. 2006 46: 1161-1171.
  5. Radtke, A. & Neuhauser, H. Prevalence and Burden of Headache and Migraine in Germany. Headache 2009; 49: 79-89.
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