Identifying migraine in primary care settings

Am J Med. 2005 Mar;118 Suppl 1:11S-17S. doi: 10.1016/j.amjmed.2005.01.015.


Migraine disorders are largely unrecognized and untreated, despite the heavy burden they impose on individuals and society. Studies have shown that the symptom severity and disability associated with undiagnosed migraine are as burdensome as those associated with diagnosed migraine. Of those persons with migraine identified in population-based surveys, many were previously unaware that they had migraine. Furthermore, coexisting headache types and comorbid conditions contribute to misdiagnosis among those who consult a physician for headache. Patients who do seek medical attention for headaches usually visit their primary care providers. The purpose of this review is to highlight the distinguishing characteristics of migraine compared with other headache disorders, based on the new International Classification of Headache Disorders. To aid in diagnosis, simple screening tools, such as ID Migraine (Pfizer Inc., New York, NY), are recommended. The clinical interview and headache diary aid in refining the diagnosis or suggesting the need for further evaluation. Improved recognition of migraine in primary care will increase the rate of successful treatment with effective migraine-specific therapies. This will result in improved functionality and decreased pain, and may help prevent disease progression.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Comorbidity
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Headache / diagnosis
  • Headache / etiology
  • Humans
  • Medical History Taking
  • Migraine Disorders / diagnosis*
  • Primary Health Care*