Migraine Or Headache How To Tell The Difference
A Michigan Medicine neurologist explains the causes and symptoms of migraine, how it differs from a typical headache, and what to do when one hits.
A migraine can happen to anyone at any time.
And theyre relatively common: The severe headaches have affected 20 percent of women and nearly 10 percent of men within the last three months, federal data show.
The debilitating pain may last for hours or even days.
Its the sixth-highest cause of disability for working people in the entire world, says Michigan Medicine headache neurologist Wade Cooper, D.O., so thinking that migraine isnt a big deal or isnt something thats a real disease is a missight for our patients, their family and the people they work with.
Many, however, might not know theyre having one.
Cooper, the director of Michigan Medicines Headache and Neuropathic Pain Clinic, explains how a headache differs from migraine, what symptoms to look for and why we shouldnt understate its impact.
Symptoms Of A Migraine
The main symptom of a migraine is usually an intense headache on one side of the head.
The pain is usually a moderate or severe throbbing sensation that gets worse when you move and prevents you from carrying out normal activities.
In some cases, the pain can occur on both sides of your head and may affect your face or neck.
When To Get Medical Advice
You should see a GP if you have frequent or severe migraine symptoms.
Simple painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, can be effective for migraine.
Try not to use the maximum dosage of painkillers on a regular or frequent basis as this could make it harder to treat headaches over time.
You should also make an appointment to see a GP if you have frequent migraines , even if they can be controlled with medicines, as you may benefit from preventative treatment.
You should call 999 for an ambulance immediately if you or someone you’re with experiences:
- paralysis or weakness in 1 or both arms or 1 side of the face
- slurred or garbled speech
- a sudden agonising headache resulting in a severe pain unlike anything experienced before
- headache along with a high temperature , stiff neck, mental confusion, seizures, double vision and a rash
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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.
What Are The Causes
Doctors are learning more about what brings on these headaches, which often run in families. Some are the result of changes in your brain chemicals. Abnormal brain activity is also involved.
Every person who has migraines has different triggers, but common ones include a lack of sleep, caffeine, and being under stress.
Most people who get chronic migraines are women. This may be because hormone changes are another well-known cause. These shifts happen around your monthly period, as well as during pregnancy and through menopause. Birth control can also play a role.
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Headache And Migraine Signs You Need To Be Aware Of
Headaches and migraines plague more than 38 million people, with some studies suggesting that 13 percent of adults in the U.S. have periodic migraines and two to three million people suffer from chronic migraines. June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, a good a time as any to discuss the signs you should be aware of, particularly if you have a loved one in hospice. Thats because many chronic and terminal illnesses and diseases are punctuated by severe headaches and migraines. Even the medication San Francisco hospice patients are put on can contribute to them. This year for 2018s Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, the theme is You Are Not Alone. Indeed. The more we know about these debilitating conditions, the stronger we can be.
Do Migraines During Pregnancy Affect Your Baby
If youre nursing a painful head right now, heres some good news: the migraines that are causing you such a headache wont affect your baby. Theres no evidence at all to suggest that.
Butand this is importantits possible that some migraine medications can affect your little one.
Ergotamine, for example, has been associated with birth differences. Your doctor wont prescribe this to you for a migraine if youre expecting a baby.
So, how to get rid of a migraine when pregnant? Here are some things you can try:
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& 5 Massage And Medical Providers
If you are unable to calm your headaches on your own, professional help can provide excellent natural remedies for headaches. Physical therapists, chiropractors, and massage therapists all have specialized training and techniques for natural remedies for headaches. Addressing muscular deficits, spine alignment, and trigger points can make a dramatic difference in the frequency and intensity of headaches.
While headaches happen to almost everyone, they do not have to be a chronic part of life. Following these tips for natural remedies for headaches can help you get your life back instead of being kept down by your pain. As always, if headaches persist, it is recommended to get checked out by your primary care provider.
Is It Normal To Have Migraines While Pregnant
Every mama-to-be experiences a different normal during pregnancy.
But headacheseven severe headaches, including migrainescan be quite common when youre pregnant.
Theyre particularly common in early pregnancy, but usually become less frequent as your pregnancy develops.
Interestingly, if youre someone who usually suffers from migraines, you may notice that you get less of them during pregnancy. And thats totally normal too.
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Why Does My Head Hurt
Women often experience tension headaches during the first trimester. Its most likely because of fluctuations in hormones, says Sheena Aurora, M.D., director of the Swedish Headache Center, in Seattle. By the second trimester, she says, the pain subsides because the hormones are steadily high.
Of course, there are many other possible reasons for your throbbing head. Ask yourself, Are my headaches being stimulated by something in my diet? says Lillian Schapiro, M.D., an OB-GYN in Atlanta. What medications am I taking? What time of day are they happening? Is there anything I can change?
In the third trimester, when youre carrying a lot of additional weight, consider whether poor posture might be a factor in your headaches. The strain on your neck and shoulders could lead to muscle spasms, which can irritate nerves in the back of your head. Or you might develop muscle tightening and spasms from sleeping with your head in an unnatural position.
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.
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Drive With Caution Or Not At All
Common sense will tell you that if you have ocular migraine symptoms while driving, pull over and stop the car.
Make sure you have a mobile or cell phone with you to call someone to come and get you.
You can always get the car later. Or call a taxi so you can get home and rest. Resting for at least 15 minutes might help try lying down in the back seat and covering your eyes for complete darkness.
Do not attempt to operate machinery or drive while experiencing an ocular migraine.
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Where To Seek Help
- Always see your doctor if you’re worried about migraines or headaches. Seek medical attention immediately if you are experiencing any other sudden or unusual symptoms.
- If you’re not sure whether you’re having a migraine, try the healthdirect Symptom Checker tool for advice on what to do next.
- If you’re not sure whether you need to see a doctor or go to hospital, you can call healthdirect for advice on 1800 022 222 .
- To find a doctor or health service near you, use the healthdirect service finder.
- Visit the Headache Australia website for information and support. There, you can also join Headache Australia’s national register to stay informed of any new treatments, developments and research into migraine and headache.
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Recovery Or Postdrome Stage
This is the final stage of an attack, and it can take hours or days for a drained, fatigued or hangover type feeling to disappear. Symptoms can be similar to those of the first stage . Often, they mirror these symptoms. For example, if you lost your appetite at the beginning of the attack, you might be very hungry now. If you were tired, you might feel full of energy.
Being aware of the different stages of the migraine attack can be helpful. It can help you prepare for an attack, get a diagnosis and decide when to take acute treatment, such as painkillers or adapt your activities.
It is useful to have a rescue treatment plan for when attacks occur. This may include painkillers such as a triptan, a NSAID or paracetamol. It often also includes anti-sickness medication.
For other people, being aware of the stages and symptoms of a migraine attack can help their understanding. It may also help with the frustration and lack of understanding people often face around migraine, especially at work and in education.
What Are Some Migraine Risk Factors And Triggers
Some things make you more likely to get migraine headaches . Other things may bring on a migraine .
Common migraine risk factors include the following:
- Family history: You are much more likely to have migraines if one or both of your parents had migraines.
- Sex: Women are more likely than men to have migraines.
- Age: Most people have their first migraine during adolescence, but migraines can start at any age, usually before age 40.
Common migraine triggers include the following:
- Food and drink: Certain food and drink may cause migraines. Dehydration and dieting or skipping meals may also trigger migraines.
- Hormone changes: Women may experience migraines related to their menstrual cycles, to menopause, or to using hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy.
- Stress: Stress may trigger migraines. Stress includes feeling overwhelmed at home or work, but your body can also be stressed if you exercise too much or dont get enough sleep.
- Senses: Loud sounds, bright lights , or strong smells may trigger migraines.
- Medicines: Certain medicines may trigger migraines. If you think your migraines might be related to your medicine, talk to your doctor. Your doctor may be able to prescribe a different medicine.
- Illness: Infections, such as the cold or the flu, may trigger migraines, especially in children.
Foods that may trigger migraines:
- aged, canned, cured, or processed meat
- aged cheese
This is the headache itself. Most of the time:
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What Is A Migraine
A migraine is a type of primary headache disorder that can cause severe pain and other symptoms. People with migraine may experience recurring symptoms that doctors call episodes or attacks.
Headaches are only one symptom of migraines, and they can range in severity. Migraine can cause intense, throbbing headaches that last anywhere from a few hours to several days.
A migraine headache usually affects one side of the head, but some people experience pain on both sides.
A migraine episode can occur in four distinct phases, though not everyone experiences every phase.
Doctors also call the premonitory phase the preheadache or prodrome phase. It includes nonpainful symptoms that occur hours or days before the headache arrives.
Premonitory phase symptoms can include:
- unexplainable mood changes
- sensitivity to light, sound, or smells
Auras refer to sensory disturbances that occur before or during a migraine attack. Auras can affect a persons vision, touch, or speech.
Visual auras can cause the following symptoms in one or both eyes:
- flashing lights
- blurred vision
- blind spots that expand over time
Sensory auras cause numbness or tingling that starts in the arm and radiates to the face.
Motor auras affect a persons ability to communicate and think clearly. Motor auras include:
- slurred or jumbled speech
- difficulty understanding what others say
- difficulty writing words or sentences
- having trouble thinking clearly
Stroke Or Migraine How To Know The Difference
Youre hit suddenly with a blinding headache. Maybe youve had migraines before and this feels like another one. Or maybe youve never had a migraine but imagine this is what one must feel like. You might be right, but what if youre not? Just like stomach pain and chest pain, a bad headache can indicate a number of conditions that have similar or overlapping symptoms. Since both stroke and migraine are common neurovascular disorders with many neurological and physical similarities, your throbbing head could be a migraine mimicking a stroke or a stroke disguised as a migraine. So which it is: stroke or migraine? Knowing the difference could save your life.
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Headache Migraine: What Are The Differences
The differences with a dull headache are as follows:
Beware of cerebral pains which are not headaches and may uncover subarachnoid drain identified with the break of an intracerebral vascular contortion. Extra assessments should be completed earnestly before any abrupt, surprising, or extreme cerebral pain. Going with neurological signs, cautions the nervous system specialist.
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Natural Home Remedies For Headaches During Pregnancy
- Non-medication strategies help pregnant women get relief while avoiding both over-the-counter medications and herbs that may not be safe.
- Hydration is critical. Dehydration is common in pregnancy. A large glass of mineral water or electrolyte-replacement beverage can resolve dehydration.
- Blood pressure is often high in pregnancy and can be a cause of headache. High blood pressure requires treatment.
- Relaxation, magnesium, and avoiding salt all help with headaches related to high blood pressure.
- Hydrotherapy, the therapeutic use of hot and cold, is helpful and safe in pregnancy. Apply a hot pack to the head and the back of the neck. This can be paired with a short application of an ice pack to maximize the relief.
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Strange Scary Symptoms Of Aura
An artists rendition of a Migraine aura
More than 90% of Migraine auras come with visual symptoms. The most common visual aura symptoms are flashes of light and temporary vision loss .
The experience can be frightening, to say the least. Oftentimes, people think there is something dangerously wrong with them. They may even think theyre having a stroke.
Fortunately, aura symptoms clear up in less than an hour for most people.
Just as there are several types of Migraine, there is also more than one type of aura! And you dont have to experience the headache phase to experience aura.
How To Get Rid Of A Migraine When Pregnant
Migraines are a different animal altogether. While some things help , it may be best to consult your doctor. Often they can prescribe a mix of acetaminophen and perhaps a mild narcotic or sedative that they consider safe. Alternately, have you considered acupuncture as an alternative headache remedy during pregnancy? While it sounds scary, its actually quite effective and has been in use for a very, very long time. An acupuncturist knows various pressure points to assist with different ailments and it may be that they can cure your headache in minutes! Youll never know if you dont try.
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