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How To Know If It Is A Migraine

How Are Migraines Treated

How to tell if your headache is actually a migraine

Migraine has no cure. But your migraines can be managed with your doctor’s help. Together, you will find ways to treat migraine symptoms when they happen, as well as ways to help make your migraines less frequent and severe. Your treatment plan may include some or all of these methods.

Medicine. There are two ways to approach the treatment of migraines with drugs: stopping a migraine in progress and prevention. Many people with migraine use both forms of treatment.

Acute treatment. Over-the-counter pain-relief drugs such as aspirin, acetaminophen, or NSAIDs like ibuprofen relieve mild migraine pain for some people. If these drugs don’t work for you, your doctor might want you to try a prescription drug. Two classes of drugs that doctors often try first are:

  • Triptans, which work by balancing the chemicals in the brain. Examples include sumatriptan , rizatriptan , zolmitriptan , almotriptan , eletriptan , naratriptan , and frovatriptan . Triptans can come as tablets that you swallow, tablets that dissolve on your tongue, nasal sprays, and as a shot. They should not be used if you have heart disease or high blood pressure.
  • Ergot derivatives , which work in the same way as triptans. They should not be used if you have heart disease or high blood pressure.

Prevention. Some medicines used daily can help prevent attacks. Many of these drugs were designed to treat other health conditions, such as epilepsy and depression. Some examples are:

How Can I Tell If I Have A Migraine Or Just A Bad Tension

Compared with migraine, tension-type headache is generally less severe and rarely disabling. Compare your symptoms with those in this chart to see what type of headache you might be having.

Migraine vs. bad tension-type headache

Aura before onset of headachex

Note: Rebound headache may have features of tension and/or migraine headache. Adapted from a table produced by the American Council for Headache Education.

Although fatigue and stress can bring on both tension and migraine headaches, migraines can be triggered by certain foods, changes in the body’s hormone levels, and even changes in the weather.

There also are differences in how types of headaches respond to treatment with medicines. Although some over-the-counter drugs used to treat tension-type headaches sometimes help migraine headaches, the drugs used to treat migraine attacks do not work for tension-type headaches for most people.

You can’t tell the difference between a migraine and a tension-type headache by how often they occur. Both can occur at irregular intervals. Also, in rare cases, both can occur daily or almost daily.

Migraines Are Costing You Money

These are big numbers. Putting aside the total economic burden of illness to the workforce, it may also be interesting to know the average migraine sufferer is spending a large amount of money on the direct medical costs of the illness. This information was highlighted in The American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention Study .

Focusing our lens on episodic migraines and chronic migraines, the costs are substantial. The total annual cost of episodic migraines, on average, is $2649 per person. The total annual cost of chronic migraines, on average, is $8243 per person. In both cases, 70 to 80% of the cost is due to drugs.

If the financial cost of living with migraines is not enough to convince you to seek migraine treatment, then perhaps the time cost may also be important to consider. The average work-time lost per episode was just over 2 hours, which adds up quickly if you have migraine half the days of every month.

In summary, consider the true cost of missing work, being at work but not functioning at your best, the economic burden to the U.S. workforce, the costs that come right out of your pocket, the costs that your insurance pays, and the time you lose while suffering migraines. All these factors need to be considered when you decide to seek migraine treatment.

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Headaches Are Interfering With Your Daily Life

If you have headaches that are landing you in bed all day or otherwise making you unable to perform your normal daily activities, its time to see a doctor. You may be experiencing migraines, or the headaches could be a symptom of another underlying issue such as the ones listed above. Only a doctor can assess the cause, so get help as soon as possible.

Make an appointment with one of our headache specialists at Keck Medicine of USC. If youre in the Los Angeles area, schedule an appointment by calling or by visiting

A List Of Medications To Talk To Your Doctor About

How To Know If You Have A Headache Or Migraine?

Use this list to talk to your doctor about the best treatment options for your migraines.

Pain RelieversTriptansNSAIDs

Many doctors will recommend taking aspirin, ibuprofen, or acetaminophen for mild symptoms. There are also drugs designed specifically for migraines. These include combinations of pain relievers and caffeine. These drugs probably won’t help a severe migraine, though. Also, there can be health problems associated with taking these medications for a long period of time, make sure to ask your doctor.

These drugs are frequently used to treat migraines. They work by constricting blood vessels and blocking pain pathways in the brain.

NSAIDs, particularly naproxen, may help prevent migraines and reduce symptoms.

Staying hydrated is an important factor in preventing migraines, but alcohol consumption is a common headache trigger for many people.

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Key Facts To Know About Migraine

What is a migraine and what are the symptoms?

Cooper: A migraine is a reflex in our nervous system that we all have, and we understand the biology now better than we ever did. We know the immune system gets activated, the nervous system gets activated, and theres a consequence of a hypersensitized brain with light and sound sensitivity and pain.

Everyone in the world can have a migraine. Those who say theyve never had a migraine but have had a hangover headache have probably had a migraine that was induced by alcohol.

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For someone who has severe migraine, they cant just be fine in an hour or two when it occurs. They expand to having severe light and sound sensitivity or severe nausea sometimes having to throw up, lie down and actually sleep or rest for a day or two at a time.

They have no way to predict when thats going to happen. It may occur while a person is at work or maybe while they have something important going on, such as a wedding. Theres really no way to control that.

What causes migraine?

Cooper: Anything that irritates that nervous system experience can cause migraine. For some people, thats not getting enough sleep. For others, its because theyve been under undue amounts of stress.

Red wine can also bring out migraine, as can eating foods high in sugars and overusing caffeine.

How do I know if I have a headache or a migraine?

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See Your Doctor Right Away If:

  • You have abrupt, severe headaches.
  • Your headaches begin for the first time after age 50.
  • Headaches start when youâre active, straining, coughing, or having sex.
  • You have these problems, and they donât get better after the headache goes away:
  • Changes in your vision
  • A body part that is weak, or you canât move it
  • Trouble with balance and walking
  • You get a fever or stiff neck.
  • You lose weight without trying.
  • Headaches start after an injury.
  • Headaches are more severe than or different from your regular headache pattern.
  • Show Sources

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    Aspirus Health Explains Migraines

    Submitted to OnFocus By some estimates, about 12 percent of Americans experience migraines. Could you be one of them?

    Migraines arent the same for all people. But that pounding in your head could be a migraine if the pain begins in your forehead, on the side of your head or around your eyes and then gradually gets worse.

    Headaches are frequent, almost everyone will experience one in their lifetime, said Aspirus Health Nurse Practitioner Tiffany Miller. Those who suffer from migraines know they have a significant impact on your everyday life. They can hit you while at work, out with you friends or spending time with your family.

    Almost any movement, activity, bright lights or loud noise might make your head hurt even more.

    More tipoffs it might be a migraine: You might feel nauseated and vomit. And as happens for about 1 out of 4 people with migraines, yours might begin with a warning sign called an aura, which may include vision changessuch as flashing lights or zig-zag linesor tingling in the lips, tongue, lower face or the fingers of one hand.

    Cause still a mystery

    Doctors still dont know just what happens in the brain to start a migraine. But it is clear people who experience them are susceptible to certain triggers. Among them:

    • Loud noises, bright lights or strong smells.
    • Skipped meals, alcohol or certain foodssuch as aged cheeses and cured meats.
    • Not enough sleep.
    • Hormonal changes related to menstrual periods and birth control pills.
    Tame your headaches

    Understanding Migraine Progression Can Help You Anticipate & Manage Your Symptoms

    How to Tell if You Have a Sinus Headache

    Migraine attacks have distinct phases, and understanding them can help people manage their disease. Symptoms associated with the earliest stages of a migraine attack, like the fatigue and blurred vision that can accompany the prodrome and aura stages, can serve as warning signs and signal the need for abortive medication. Identifying and treating a migraine early can even help prevent the symptoms for some people. Additionally, identifying risk factors that can contribute to postdrome hangovers may help individuals anticipate the duration of their attack and its aftereffects.

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    Whats A Migraine Journal

    • Keeping a migraine journal is not only beneficial to you, but it helps your healthcare provider with the diagnosis process. Your journal should be detailed and updated as much as possible before, during and after a migraine attack. Consider keeping track of the following:
    • The date and time of when the migraine began specifically when the prodrome started, if youre able to tell its happening. Track time passing. When did the aura phase begin? The headache? The postdrome? Do your best to tell what stage youre in and how long it lasts. If theres a pattern, that may help you anticipate what will happen in the future.
    • What are your symptoms? Be specific.
    • Note how many hours of sleep you got the night before it happened and your stress level. Whats causing your stress?
    • Note the weather.
    • Log your food and water intake. Did you eat something that triggered the migraine? Did you miss a meal?
    • Describe the type of pain and rate it on a one to 10 scale with 10 being the worst pain youve ever experienced.
    • Where is the pain located? One side of your head? Your jaw? Your eye?
    • List all of the medications you took. This includes any daily prescriptions, any supplements and any pain medication you took.
    • How did you try to treat your migraine, and did it work? What medicine did you take, at what dosage, at what time?
    • Consider other triggers. Maybe you played basketball in the sunlight? Maybe you watched a movie that had flashing lights? If youre a woman, are you on your period?

    Coping With An Aura While Driving

    Driving during an aura can be really scary, especially with visual symptoms. Aura symptoms can be minor, but if your aura comes with complete or partial vision loss, driving becomes dangerous.

    If you find that Migraine with aura causes debilitating symptoms, speak with your physician to see if it is recommended that you drive. It’s also important to be sure there are no side effects from Migraine medications that would limit your ability to drive safely.

    If you experience a Migraine aura while driving, getting to a safe place and getting help is essential. One way to quickly contact a loved one for help is to have voice prompts activated on your phone or car radio system. Some people may benefit from having an alert bracelet, necklace or car setting to call for immediate help.

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    It Comes On Suddenly And Severely

    A brain aneurysm occurs when weak blood vessels in the brain start expanding or ballooning out. Usually they dont cause symptoms, although if they get very big, they can cause headaches. But a ruptured aneurysm, which occurs when the ballooned vessel pops and leaks blood around the brain, can cause a massive, sudden headache.

    The classic presentation is the worst headache of your life, says Jonathan J. Russin, MD, assistant professor of clinical neurological surgery at the Keck School of Medicine of USC and a neurosurgeon at Keck Medicine of USC. They call it a thunder clap headache.

    It may also be accompanied by nausea, vomiting, weakness or drowsiness. If you experience a major headache like this, call 911 immediately.

    What Is The Prognosis For People With Migraines

    SEE: Do you have a headache or a migraine?

    Migraines are unique to each individual. Likewise, how migraines are managed is also unique. The best outcomes are usually achieved by learning and avoiding personal migraine triggers, managing symptoms, practicing preventive methods, following the advice of your healthcare provider and reporting any significant changes as soon as they occur.

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    What Are The Types Of Headaches What Type Of Headache Is A Migraine

    There are over 150 types of headaches, divided into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. A migraine is a primary headache, meaning that it isnt caused by a different medical condition. Primary headache disorders are clinical diagnoses, meaning theres no blood test or imaging study to diagnose it. A secondary headache is a symptom of another health issue.

    What A Migraine Feels Like

    A migraine headache is an intense pain in the head. The best way to tell the difference between a normal headache and a migraine is to make note of the symptoms.

    Symptoms of migraines can include:

    • Nausea
    • Seeing spots or flashing lights
    • Sensitivity to light or sound
    • Temporary vision loss
    • Vomiting

    Migraine headaches also usually happen on only one side of the head. This is the number one indicator for me that I’m experiencing a migraine, along with, unfortunately, nausea and vomiting. It’s possible, however, to have one on both sides of the head. You might find that a migraine headache consists of more of a throbbing pain.

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    What Is An Aura

    An aura is a group of sensory, motor and speech symptoms that usually act like warning signals that a migraine headache is about to begin. Commonly misinterpreted as a seizure or stroke, it typically happens before the headache pain, but can sometimes appear during or even after. An aura can last from 10 to 60 minutes. About 15% to 20% of people who experience migraines have auras.

    Aura symptoms are reversible, meaning that they can be stopped/healed. An aura produces symptoms that may include:

    • Seeing bright flashing dots, sparkles, or lights.
    • Blind spots in your vision.
    • Numb or tingling skin.

    What Happens During A Migraine Aura

    How Do I Know If My Headache Is a Migraine?

    Imagine you are sitting at your computer with a pile of work to go through. Suddenly, you feel a little ‘off.’

    You can’t focus on your screen, so you rub your eyes. Then you then begin to see floaters and flashes of light. Thinking that you’ve had enough work for the day, you think about grabbing a coffee.

    As you stand up, your vision goes black and you can’t see.

    You feel tingling in your face and your right arm goes numb. You understandably panic and ask your coworker to help you. You think you might be having a stroke.

    That’s what Migraine with aura can feel like: many of the same stroke symptoms, yet only temporary. Despite the fact that aura symptoms disappear, they can be incredibly disabling while they’re happening.

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    Is The Pain Chronic

    Pain that lasts day and night without stopping is worrisome, particularly when it goes on longer than three days. If thats the case,

    According to Nauman Tariq, director of the Headache Center at Johns Hopkins Medicine in Baltimore, chronic headaches could lead to another diagnosis.

    Fifty percent of people with chronic headache also have anxiety and depression, he tells the Washington Post in an interview in January 2018.

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    Location Of Headache Pain Vs Migraine Pain

    Migraines and headaches can also have different areas where the pain is centralized.

    If you have a headache, you’ll likely feel pain and pressure in the forehead and scalp, and sometimes even toward the area where the spine and skull connect.

    If you have a migraine, you’ll likely feel pain on only one side of your head. You may occasionally feel pain on both sides of the head when you have a migraine, but the pain will likely feel more intense on one side.

    If you can clearly identify that the pain is on one side of your head instead of across your forehead or across your entire head, you’re likely dealing with a migraine. Each case is different, though, so make sure you monitor for other symptoms.


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