When Should I Seek Immediate Help Or Contact My Healthcare Provider
- You are experiencing the worst headache of my life.
- You are having neurologic symptoms that youve never had before, including speaking difficulty, balance problems, vision problems, mental confusion, seizures or numbing/tingling sensations.
- Your headache comes on suddenly.
- You have a headache after experiencing a head injury.
Schedule a visit with your healthcare provider if:
- The number or severity of your headaches increase or your headache pattern changes.
- Your medications no longer seem to be working or youre experiencing new or different side effects.
How To Tell If You Have A Migraine
This article was medically reviewed by . Dr. Litza is a board certified Family Medicine Physician in Wisconsin. She is a practicing Physician and taught as a Clinical Professor for 13 years, after receiving her MD from the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Medicine and Public Health in 1998.There are 11 references cited in this article, which can be found at the bottom of the page.wikiHow marks an article as reader-approved once it receives enough positive feedback. In this case, 85% of readers who voted found the article helpful, earning it our reader-approved status. This article has been viewed 54,290 times.
People get headaches for all kinds of reasons. Migraine headaches, which can last from a few hours up to several days, are painful and difficult to get through. They affect about 12 percent of the population, and are three times more common in women than in men.XTrustworthy SourceMedlinePlusCollection of medical information sourced from the US National Library of MedicineGo to source Migraines can be treated with rest and proper care, but to first you’ll need to figure out if you are having one.
Syndromes That May Be Associated With Migraine
Certain disorders occur more frequently among people with migraine or people, usually children, at a higher risk of developing migraine:
Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome In cyclical vomiting syndrome, an individual experiences attacks of severe nausea and vomiting lasting an hour or more for up to 10 days at a time. Between attacks, which occur on a regular cycle, the person has no symptoms of nausea or vomiting.
Benign Paroxysmal Vertigo In this syndrome, otherwise healthy children experience recurrent brief attacks of vertigo that come on without warning and resolve spontaneously without loss of consciousness. During the attacks, a child may have nystagmus , impaired balance or coordination , vomiting, pale skin, and fearfulness.
Benign Paroxysmal Torticollis Occurring in infants and small children, this syndrome causes the head to tilt to one side, with or without slight rotation, and stay tilted for minutes to days before spontaneously resuming its normal position. During the attack, the infant or child may be pale and irritable, seem uncomfortable or generally unwell, vomit, or in older children, have impaired balance or coordination.
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I’m Pregnant Can My Migraines Still Be Treated
Some migraine medicines should not be used when you are pregnant because they can cause birth defects and other problems. This includes over-the-counter medicines, such as aspirin and ibuprofen. Talk with your doctor if migraine is a problem while you are pregnant or if you are planning to become pregnant. Your doctor might suggest a medicine that will help you and that is safe during pregnancy. Home treatment methods, such as doing relaxation exercises and using cold packs, also might help ease your pain. The good news is that for most women migraines improve or stop from about the third month of the pregnancy.
What Is Migraine Symptoms Causes Diagnosis Treatment And Prevention
Migraine is a neurological disease characterized by repeated episodes of symptoms, called attacks, that usually include headache, often accompanied by nausea vomiting sensitivity to light, touch, smell, or sound dizziness visual disturbances and tingling or numbness in the face, hands, or feet.
Migraine attacks may come on suddenly without warning, or they may be preceded by certain known triggers, such as skipping a meal, being exposed to smoke or air pollution, or experiencing a change in hormone levels as part of the menstrual cycle. Most migraine attacks last from 4 to 72 hours, although effective treatment can shorten them to a matter of hours. On the other hand, some migraine attacks can last even longer than 72 hours.
Having migraine can be disabling and can lead to missing days of school or work, being less productive at school or work, being unable to perform household responsibilities, and missing out on family, social, and leisure activities.
An estimated 1 billion people worldwide, and 39 million Americans, have migraine.
While a variety of triggers can set off migraine attacks, they dont directly cause the attacks or the underlying disease.
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The Headache Or Main Attack Stage
This stage involves moderate to severe head pain. The headache is typically throbbing and is made worse by movement. It is usually on one side of the head, especially at the start of an attack. However, you can get pain on both sides, or all over the head.
Nausea and vomiting can happen at this stage, and you may feel sensitive to light, sound, smell and movement. Painkillers work best when taken early in this stage.
Can Migraines Be Prevented Or Avoided
Medicine to prevent migraines may be helpful if your headaches happen more than 2 times a month. You may want to consider this medicine if your headaches make it hard for you to work and function. These medicines are taken every day, whether you have a headache or not.
Preventive medications for migraines can include prescription drugs often used to treat other ailments. Anti-seizure medicines, antidepressants, medicines to lower blood pressure, and even Botox injections are some of the preventive medications your doctor may prescribe. Calcitonin gene-related peptide inhibitors can also help prevent migraines. They do so by blocking a gene-related peptide in your sensory nerves. This peptide is known to increase during a migraine attack, so blocking it can help prevent migraines.
There are also a number of non-medical treatments designed to help minimize migraine pain and frequency. One is an electrical stimulation device, which has been approved by the FDA. It is a headband that you wear once a day for 20 minutes to stimulate the nerve linked to migraines. Another non-medical treatment is counseling aimed at helping you feel in more control of your migraines. This counseling works best when paired with medical prevention of migraines, as well.
What Are The Stages Of A Migraine
The Migraine Research Foundation says that migraine is a neurological disease that affects 39 million people in the U.S. Migraines, which often begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood, can progress through four stages: prodrome, aura, attack and post-drome. Not everyone who has migraines goes through all stages.
Preventive Medications And Treatments
Especially for tough-to-manage, chronic migraine cases , doctors may prescribe medications to prevent the onset of attacks. These abortive drugs include:
- Beta-blockers:Drugs of this class, like Tenormin and Inderal LA , lower blood pressure and have been shown to help with migraines.
- Tricyclic antidepressants: Elavil and Pamelor , among others, are a type of antidepressant that can also help with pain.
- Antiepileptic drugs: Medications to prevent seizures, antiepileptic drugs, like Depakote and Topamax , are also prescribed for migraine.
- Calcium channel-blockers:Verapamil may be prescribed. This class of drugs is typically used for high blood pressure and other cardiac issues.
- Calcitonin gene-related peptides : A newer class for migraine prevention, drugs of this type include Vyepti and Ajovy .
Another option for difficult, chronic migraines are Botox injections. Using a toxin made by the botulinum bacteria to essentially numb pain messaging, shots are delivered to specific areas on your forehead, sides, back of the head, and/or neck. The effects, however, only last about three months, so multiple appointments are necessary.
When migraines are known to be associated with the menstrual cycle, hormone therapy may be attempted.
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What Is The Difference Between Headache And Migraine
Migraine is a type of primary headache disorder, as is tension-type headache. The cause of neither is fully understood, but both appear to involve heightened sensitivity to stimuli, whether pain, in the case of tension headache, or environmental changes, in the case of migraine.
While head pain is a symptom of both migraine and tension headache, migraine attacks are often accompanied by nausea and are made worse with routine physical activity, while tension-type headache is not.
In addition, headaches caused by migraine typically occur on one side of the head, while tension headaches typically affect both sides.
And migraine tends to have a pulsating or throbbing quality, while the pain of a tension-type headache is described as pressing or tightening.
Having one type of primary headache disorder doesnt rule out having another. In fact, many people have both migraine and tension-type headache.
Are There Different Kinds Of Migraine
Yes, there are many forms of migraine. The two forms seen most often are migraine with aura and migraine without aura.
Migraine with aura . With a migraine with aura, a person might have these sensory symptoms 10 to 30 minutes before an attack:
- Seeing flashing lights, zigzag lines, or blind spots
- Numbness or tingling in the face or hands
- Disturbed sense of smell, taste, or touch
- Feeling mentally “fuzzy”
Only one in five people who get migraine experience an aura. Women have this form of migraine less often than men.
Migraine without aura . With this form of migraine, a person does not have an aura but has all the other features of an attack.
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What Is A ‘migraine With Aura’
There are 2 types of migraine: migraine with aura, and without aura.
It might sound a bit paranormal, but migraine with aura is very real. Some people see flashing lights or a change in their vision some having trouble speaking, and some feel ‘pins and needles’ in their arms and legs. This can happen before or during a migraine attack.
Even if you get auras, you may not experience one with every migraine. The aura itself usually lasts less than an hour. Scientists aren’t entirely sure why it happens.
Knowing Exactly Which Type Of Migraine You Have Is Essential To Finding The Most Effective Treatment
Its a fact: 60% of women and 70% of men with Migraine arent diagnosed properly. Getting an accurate diagnosis is critical for the right treatment. Some medications are actually dangerous to people who actually have Migraine with Aura, for example.
According to the International Classification of Headache Disorders , there are seven different types of migraines: the two major types , the four subtypes of Migraine with aura, and Chronic Migraine. The criteria for doctors to use in diagnosing these types of Migraine are based on scientific evidence
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How Do I Know If I Have A Vestibular Migraine
To make a reasonable diagnosis of vestibular migraine requires a conversation with your doctor to review your medical history. However, a positive diagnosis is likely if you have at least five episodes of moderate to severe symptoms lasting between five minutes and 72 hours, and at least half of your episodes include at least one of the following three features:
- Headache with at least two of the following four characteristics: unilateral location, pulsating quality, moderate or severe intensity, and/or aggravation by routine physical activity
- Fear of or sensitivity to light and sound
- Visual aura
Are Migraines Hereditary
Migraines tend to run in families. As many as four out of five people with migraines have a family history. If one parent has a history of migraines, their child has a 50% chance of having them. If both parents have a history of migraines, the risk jumps to 75%. Again, up to 80% of people with migraines have a first-degree relative with the disease.
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What Is Sinus Headache
A true sinus headache, called rhinosinusitis, is rare. The cause is a viral or bacterial sinus infection characterized by thick, discolored nasal discharge. Youll get symptoms like possibly weaker smell or no smell, facial pain or pressure and commonly, fever. Facial pain and headache should resolve within seven days after viral symptoms improve or after successful treatment with antibiotics . If pain continues, then your diagnosis should be reconsidered.
What Else Can I Do To Prevent Migraines
While there are no sure ways to keep from having migraine headaches, here are some things that may help:
Eat regularly and do not skip meals.
- Keep a regular sleep schedule.
- Exercise regularly. Aerobic exercise can help reduce tension as well as keep your weight in check. Obesity can contribute to migraines.
- Keep a migraine journal to help you learn what triggers your migraines and what treatments are most helpful.
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Stages Of A Migraine Attack
It is often difficult to know when a migraine attack is going to happen. However, you can often tell the pattern of each attack as there are well defined stages.
It is these stages and their symptoms that distinguish a migraine from a headache.
However, not everyone will experience all of the symptoms of each stage and the stages can overlap. In adults, we can divide a migraine attack into four or five stages that lead on from each other.
Learning to recognise the different stages of a migraine attack can be useful. You might get one, all, or a combination of these stages, and the combination of stages may vary from attack to attack. Each stage can vary in how long and how bad it is. Recognising different symptoms at different times during your attack can give your doctor information which may help them make a diagnosis. Taking medication as soon as you notice the pain may stop or shorten an attack.
Migraine attacks in children are often much shorter than in an adult. It may be easier to tell the different headache stages in a child.
Can Using Birth Control Pills Make My Migraines Worse
In some women, pills improve migraine. The pills may help reduce the number of attacks and their attacks may become less severe. But in other women, the pills may worsen their migraines. In still other women, taking birth control pills has no effect on their migraines.
The reason for these different responses is not well understood. For women whose migraines get worse when they take birth control pills, their attacks seem to occur during the last week of the cycle. This is because the last seven pills in most monthly pill packs don’t have hormones they are there to keep you in the habit of taking your birth control daily. Without the hormones, your body’s estrogen levels drop sharply. This may trigger migraine in some women.
Talk with your doctor if you think birth control pills are making your migraines worse. Switching to a pill pack in which all the pills for the entire month contain hormones and using that for three months in a row can improve headaches. Lifestyle changes, such as getting on a regular sleep pattern and eating healthy foods, can help too.
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What About Menstrual Migraines Morning Migraines
If you’re wondering: where is Hormonal Migraine? Morning Migraine? Complex Migraine? Well, these technically aren’t official Migraine types anymore, according to the IHS. I asked Peter Goadsby, MD, one of the top doctors influencing IHS and AHS policies why these new terms were adopted.
His explanation: the World Health Organization needed a common language to define all the Migraine sub-types so that doctors and patients around the world could compare notes and exchange data. That seems like a very good idea.
If you suffer from Menstrual Migraine attacks three days before every period, you can keep calling that. Ditto for Weather-Related Migraine and Morning Migraine, the kind that wrecks your day before it even starts. As Migraine Warriors, we tend to think of the occasions when attacks occur and major symptoms to name our pain.
Personally, I discovered after decades of suffering from Chronic Migraine without Aura that my own pain didn’t start at 23, but instead at 12 with Abdominal Migraine complications and a Migralepsy seizure.
How Can I Tell If I Have A Migraine Or A Sinus Headache
Many people confuse a sinus headache with a migraine because pain and pressure in the sinuses, nasal congestion, and watery eyes often occur with migraine. To find out if your headache is sinus or migraine, ask yourself these questions:
In addition to my sinus symptoms, do I have:
If you answer yes to two or three of these questions, then most likely you have migraine with sinus symptoms. A true sinus headache is rare and usually occurs due to sinus infection. In a sinus infection, you would also likely have a fever and thick nasal secretions that are yellow, green, or blood-tinged. A sinus headache should go away with treatment of the sinus infection.
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Signs Your Headache Is Actually A Migraine
Once you know the symptoms you can properly treat your pain.
If you think your really bad headaches arent migraines, you may want to take a closer look at your symptomsespecially if youre a woman.
More than half of all migraine sufferers are never diagnosed, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. And according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, migraines are three times more common in women than in men. Crazy, right?