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Migraine, Brain Tumor and Seizure: A Differential Diagnosis

The television series, House is widely enjoyed by millions of viewers all over the world. The concept of the show revolves around a brilliant diagnostician and his team of doctors who try to determine the illness of their patients to be able to provide the appropriate treatment. The method they utilize to uncover the mysteries of the patient's condition is called differential diagnosis. In the field of medicine and health, conducting a differential diagnosis is very necessary since several illnesses may display similar symptoms. A differential diagnosis is therefore done by observing the various symptoms manifested by a patient; doing different types of medical examinations; and by interviewing the patient or his family regarding personal, medical and social histories. The main goal, therefore, of having a differential diagnosis is to avoid medical malpractice and to provide quality treatments for patients.

As mentioned earlier, several medical problems or illnesses may show similar symptoms or manifestations. This makes it more difficult for people and even physicians to identify treatment that should be provided. Such can be the case in conditions such as migraines, brain tumors, and seizure disorders. Among persons who suffer from migraine, it is of great importance to be knowledgeable of the causes and symptoms of this particular condition in relation to other illnesses such as brain tumors and seizure disorders that exhibit similar symptoms. Knowing the differences among the said medical conditions will help people to better understand and appreciate migraine remedies.

The main similarity between migraines, brain tumors and seizures is that all of these conditions affect the neurological system. These conditions should be given proper attention since these ailments affect the brain. Common manifestations or symptoms of migraines, brain tumors and seizures include: headache, aura, nausea, vomiting, problems with vision, weakness, changes in mood or behavior and negative reactions towards certain sensations (sight, hearing, smell, movement). Migraine headaches may, therefore, also be a result of abnormal electro-physiologic synchronization which occurs in seizures or maybe because of a damage in a particular tissue in the brain due to tumors. To identify the root of the problem is to determine the possible causes. A situation similar to this is when a child manifests a difficulty in repeating words which can be a result of either difficulty in hearing, difficulty in moving the parts involved in talking or difficulty in understanding or processing the instruction which is to repeat the words. Migraine is said to be caused by a possible disorder in the serotonergic control system. Serotonin is a neurotransmitter in the brain which regulates emotions such as anger and aggression, mood, appetite, sexuality and vomiting. Another cause of migraines can be attributed to the exposure to or withdrawal of certain “triggers” which can be environmental, chemical, hormonal or behavioral. On the other hand, seizures are caused by abnormal electric activity in a group of brain cells.

Causes of brain tumors are still undetermined. However, some studies show that a higher predominance of this condition is observed among those whose work include making contact with or exposure to high-chemical content substances. Just by observation, the differences among the three conditions cannot be easily determined. This is the reason why medical tests or evaluations are needed to be further done in the hope of acquiring more evidences that would lead or point to a certain condition. Among the tests that can be done are magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), CT scan and electroencephalography (EEG). Conducting MRI and CT scan will show any abnormal cell growth within the brain while EEG recordings will determine unusual electrical activity in the brain. Any anomalies observed among the tests mentioned can rule out that the headaches due to migraine alone. However, when results of those tests indicate normal activity or conditions, conclusions still cannot be made. Further observation of the symptoms manifested needs to be done. Though a lot of symptoms among migraines, brain tumors and seizures are similar, there are also certain differences which can be a main lead during differential diagnosis.

Experiences of seeing auras usually occur only among those who have migraines and seizures. People with brain tumors do not usually have this. Existence of aura, therefore, can possibly rule out having brain tumors. Also, unlike symptoms of migraines and seizures which are episodic, symptoms of brain tumors happen more consistently. Symptoms of migraine such as headaches or feeling of nausea usually last from three hours to several days while those of seizures are usually of shorter duration only. Thus, suspicion of possible migraine condition can be more strongly supported when the symptoms remain for a long time. Differential diagnosis, however, though recommended to be understood and applied by common people, are more valid when done by certain professionals such as doctors. Upon arriving to a certain conclusion, they are also the ones who can effectively prescribe the appropriate medication, remedy or management for the condition. In some instances, there is an overlap between the medications of seizures and migraine remedies. Among these are depakene, depakote topiramate and topamax.

However, certain treatment only react effectively to the corresponding illness that they are made for. Also, aside from having no curative effects at all on the condition, taking the wrong medication could even worsen the problem. Thus, a thorough investigation of the situation should really be done to conduct a highly evidence-supported differential diagnosis and, as a result, allow doctors to identify the appropriate treatment.


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