Undiagnosed Migraine Headaches: A Comparison of Symptom-Based and Reported Physician Diagnosis

Richard B. Lipton, Walter F. Stewart, David D. Celentano, Michael L. Reed

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

210 Scopus citations


Background.—Although migraine headaches are a common cause of temporary disability, many people with migraine have not been diagnosed. In a sample of the US population, we sought to determine the proportion of migraineurs diagnosed by a physician and to identify the headache characteristics and sociodemographic profiles associated with undiagnosed migraine. Methods.—A mail questionnaire survey was sent to 15 000 US households, selected from a panel to be representative of the US population. Of a total study base population of 23 611, excluding 3043 subjects less than 12 years of age and respondents with unreported gender, we analyzed data for 20 468 subjects aged 12 to 80 years. Migraine diagnoses were assigned on the basis of reported symptoms by means of operational diagnostic criteria. Physician diagnosis of migraine was ascertained on the basis of self-report. Results.—Forty-one percent of female and 29% of male migraineurs reported having been diagnosed by a physician. Diagnosis was more likely in females, in people with high income levels, and in individuals who reported migraine associated with aura, vomiting, or disability. Of the undiagnosed subjects, 80% experienced at least some headacherelated disability. Conclusions.—Results of this survey indicate that the majority of people with migraine in the United States do not report having been diagnosed by a physician. Given the high proportion of undiagnosed subjects with headache-related disability, efforts to improve the diagnosis and treatment of migraine are recommended.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1273-1278
Number of pages6
JournalArchives of internal medicine
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1992

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Internal Medicine


Dive into the research topics of 'Undiagnosed Migraine Headaches: A Comparison of Symptom-Based and Reported Physician Diagnosis'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this