When you are suffering from chronic migraines you want answers. Even more importantly, you want solutions that give you relief. A migraine specialist may be just what you need. If you are thinking about seeking a migraine specialist to treat your migraines, there are two things you should know:
- A migraine is not just a headache, it is much more, and
- Not all doctors have the training and experience in diagnosing and treating migraines.
Headache disorders like migraines require specialized care. A migraine doctor has the training and experience necessary to help you work out an effective treatment plan. They focus on the headache disorder so that you can get the relief that you need.
Do you Need a Migraine Specialist?
You may have seen your family doctor about your headaches and he or she may have even diagnosed you with migraines, but you may need more. When your headaches are chronic or have symptoms that are severe or disturbing, it is probably time to see a specialist.
While everyone gets headaches now and then, signs that you probably should involve a specialist in your headache care include:
- You are having two headaches (or more) a week.
- You are over 50 and
- Have chronic headaches (15 or more days a month)
- Have a headache that is different or has different symptoms
- Over-the-counter medications are no longer effective
- Your headaches have changed in severity and/or frequency
- Your life is being negatively impacted by your headaches, such as family, work, social activities, or school
- A headache has landed you in the emergency department.
Headache Symptoms You Shouldn’t Ignore
Sometimes a headache is just a headache and you don’t have to think much about it beyond making lifestyle changes like quitting
smoking, changing your diet to eliminate certain foods, or reducing your stress levels. However, some headaches come with symptoms that may warrant a visit with a specialist. If your headache includes any of these symptoms you should talk to a migraine doctor:
- Nausea and/or vomiting
- Loss of control or weakness in vision, speech, or a part of your body
- Blurry vision
- Loss or coordination
- Loss of consciousness
- Any of these symptoms accompanied with brief bouts of headache pain (remember, a migraine doesn’t have to be long and some don’t have any pain at all)
How to Find a Migraine Specialist
Your search to find a headache specialist usually begins with your primary care doctor who will provide a recommendation or referral. Migraine specialists are often neurologists who have chosen to focus on headache disorders. However, not all neurologists are headache specialists. Many neurologists or doctors who treat headache disorders are certified by the United Council for Neurologic Subspecialties (UCNS). A physician who is UCNS certified has passed an exam that concentrates on headache disorders and allows them to legally carry the title of Headache Specialist.
The UCNS website also provides a list of headache specialists who are certified through them. Currently, there are more than 500 doctors certified in Headache Medicine. The list is in PDF format. To search, open the PDF and press CTRL+ F. A search window will pop up in the top, right hand corner of your screen. Type in your city or state abbreviation and you will see a number appear in the search box that will say 1 of and whatever the total is. Use the arrows on the right of the search box to navigate through the file and see the headache doctors in the area you chose.
Sometimes a migraine specialist may be working as a solo practitioner in their own private office. Other times they may have an office in a medical complex with many different types of specialists. Or they may practice in a clinic that concentrates specifically on migraines and headache disorders. If you find that you are having trouble locating a headache specialist in your area, get creative and check out some of these other settings. Also, if you find that light sensitivity is a component of your migraines you may want to look for a neuro-opthalmologist.
If you are struggling with headaches, a migraine specialist may be just what you need. You owe it to yourself to get help and get relief.
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