The use of questions to determine the presence of photophobia and phonophobia during migraine

Headache. 2008 Mar;48(3):395-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2007.00920.x. Epub 2007 Sep 12.


Objective: To investigate whether the use of more detailed close-ended questions as part of the routine headache history is helpful when patients initially deny that they are sensitive to light and noise during migraine headaches.

Background: According to the International Headache Society 2004 criteria, the diagnosis of migraine requires the presence of at least one of the following during a headache: (1) nausea and/or vomiting, (2) photophobia and phonophobia. Evans anecdotally noted that many patients answer the question, "does light or noise bother you during a headache," with a "no" when the answer is really "yes" if they are asked more detailed close-ended questions.

Methods: Consecutive patients fulfilling International Headache Society 2004 criteria for migraine or probable migraine presenting to a headache clinic and a neurology clinic were asked the following questions: "does light bother you during a headache?" If "no," they were then asked, "during a headache, would you prefer to be in bright sunlight or in a dark room?""does noise bother you during a headache?" If "no," they were then asked, "during a headache, would you prefer to be in a room with loud music or in a quiet room?"

Results: Eighty-five consecutive patients with migraine or probable migraine were questioned, 71 females (83.5%) and 14 males (16.5%). There was denial of light and sound sensitivity in 24% of patients with routine questioning and then awareness of sensitivity in 93% with the further questioning. A total of 7.1% of the patients were diagnosed with probable migraine. However, if the additional questions were not asked, 8% more of the patients with definite migraine would have been incorrectly diagnosed as probable migraine.

Conclusion: When patients initially deny light and noise sensitivity during migraine headaches, additional questions should be asked to ensure that their answer is accurate. Not asking the additional questions may result in the over-diagnosis of probable migraine.

MeSH terms

  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hyperacusis / diagnosis*
  • Hyperacusis / etiology*
  • Male
  • Migraine Disorders / complications*
  • Photophobia / diagnosis*
  • Photophobia / etiology*
  • Surveys and Questionnaires