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How To Know If Migraines Are Serious

Learn More About Each Stage Of A Migraine:

How Do You Know if A Headache is Serious?

1. Prodrome

One or two days before a migraine, you might notice subtle changes that warn of an upcoming migraine, including constipation, mood changes from depression to euphoria, food cravings, neck stiffness, increased thirst and urination or frequent yawning.

2. Aura

For some people, aura might occur before or during migraines. Auras are reversible symptoms of the nervous system. They’re usually visual, but they also can include other disturbances. Each symptom usually begins gradually, builds up over several minutes and lasts 20 minutes to one hour.

Examples of auras include:
  • Visual phenomena, such as seeing various shapes, bright spots or flashes of light
  • Vision loss
  • “Pins-and-needles” sensations in an arm or leg
  • Weakness or numbness in the face, or one side of the body
  • Difficulty speaking
  • Uncontrollable jerking or other movements

3. Attack

A migraine usually lasts from four to 72 hours if untreated, and the frequency varies by the person. Migraines might occur rarely or strike several times a month.

During a migraine, you might have:
  • Pain, usually on one side of your head, but often on both sides
  • Pain that throbs or pulses
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, and sometimes smell and touch
  • Nausea and vomiting

4. Post-drome

After a migraine attack, you might feel drained, confused and washed out for up to a day. Some people report feeling elated. Sudden head movement might bring on pain again briefly.

Learn more about headaches:

Precipitated By Valsalva Maneuver

The Valsalva maneuver is a breathing technique that your doctor may use to rule out whats called a posterior fossa lesion or tumor. The posterior fossa is the small space in the skull near the brain stem and cerebellum. Other symptoms of this type of tumor are drowsiness, imbalance, nausea, and vomiting, according to MedlinePlus.

To perform the Valsalva maneuver, breathe out strongly through your mouth, pinch your nose shut and press the air out like you are blowing up a balloon.

Your Head Is Throbbing

Its estimated that around six percent of men and 18 percent of women suffer from migraines. If you happen to fall into that group, you know how painful and debilitating they can be. Though the first time you feel it coming on, you might worry something is terribly wrong, people with migraines often become experts at spotting the warning signs. Neurologist Isha Gupta, MD, explains, Severe migraines can be described as intense throbbing or pounding sensations, with sensitivity to light or sound. Other types of severe headaches can be described as sharp stabbing pain in the face or around the eye. Some people have severe tension headache described as a band-like squeezing. Though its important to talk to your doctor if you continuously experience migraine-like symptoms, they can be managed with medicine and therapy.

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How Are They Treated

Both migraine and chronic migraine can be treated with the same drugs. These include medications that treat the pain and symptoms as well as drugs that treat the underlying cause of migraine. In some cases, there are medical devices you can use to interrupt the headache. Still, no treatment is perfect.

Because of that, chronic migraines can take a toll on your personal life. If you get painful headaches for half of each month, you lose days of work or school and precious time with friends and family. Itâs common for people with chronic migraines to also have depression.

Tuesday 12 September 2017

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Headaches are really common. In fact, Headache Australia says theyre one of the most common symptoms experienced by humans, with more than 5 million Australians affected by headaches and migraines.

Even though its so common, if youve got a headache thats sudden, severe or lasting, you might be worried that theres a serious problem. So how do you know when a headache is something you can treat at home, or when you should see your doctor?

Lets explore what a headache is, how you might treat it at home and when you should get medical advice.

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Light Noise Or Smells Trigger Or Worsen Pain

In the throes of a migraine attack, the migraine sufferer tends to seek refuge in a dark, quiet place. Bright lights and loud noises can trigger a migraine or intensify the pain. The same is true of certain odors.

“Once you’ve already got a migraine, smells can seem more intense and make it worse,” Dr. Calhoun says. “But a smell can also trigger a migraine in someone who didn’t have one before walked past the perfume counter.”

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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Can Stress Cause Migraines

Yes. Stress can trigger both migraine and tension-type headache. Events like getting married, moving to a new home, or having a baby can cause stress. But studies show that everyday stresses not major life changes cause most headaches. Juggling many roles, such as being a mother and wife, having a career, and financial pressures, can be daily stresses for women.

Making time for yourself and finding healthy ways to deal with stress are important. Some things you can do to help prevent or reduce stress include:

  • Eating healthy foods
  • Being active
  • Doing relaxation exercises
  • Getting enough sleep

Try to figure out what causes you to feel stressed. You may be able to cut out some of these stressors. For example, if driving to work is stressful, try taking the bus or subway. You can take this time to read or listen to music, rather than deal with traffic. For stressors you can’t avoid, keeping organized and doing as much as you can ahead of time will help you to feel in control.

See Your Doctor As Soon As Possible If You Experience Any Of These Troubling Symptoms

HEADACHES. How to know if it’s something serious.

We all get headaches from time to time. They can be brought on by annoying but manageable reasons such as stress, dehydration or your menstrual cycle, or they could be the result of an ongoing medical issue, such as migraines.

But how can you tell when a headache is a symptom of an even more serious or life-threatening problem? Here are some signs to look for.

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Signs Of A Cluster Headache

While a cluster headache is a type of primary headache and not a sign of another underlying condition, the severe pain these headaches cause can lead some people to contemplate suicide.

Cluster headaches occur suddenly and cause a piercing and very intense pain, almost always on one side of the head. A runny nose and tearing on the side with the pain is also common. Cluster headaches generally last between 15 minutes and three hours, without treatment.

Cluster headaches get their name because they come in clusters. A person might have daily cluster headaches for a month or more, for example, and then none for a year.

Treatment for cluster headaches can be high-flow oxygen through a mask nerve blocks, in which a numbing agent, or anesthetic, is injected into the scalp near particular nerves or daily doses of the drug verapamil.

Questions To Ask Your Doctor

Make the most of your doctor appointment by preparing a list of questions that you wonât want to forget. Here are some examples:

What could be causing my migraines?

  • Do I need tests?
  • Will my migraines get better?
  • What is the best treatment for me?
  • Are there non-drug options that will help?
  • What if my medication does not work?
  • Will changes to my lifestyle or diet make a difference?
  • Could there be other reasons I have migraine symptoms?

Show Sources

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Immediate Action Required: Phone 999 If:

  • your headache occurs suddenly and is very severe it may feel like a blinding pain
  • your headache occurs after a severe head injury

You have an extremely painful headache and:

  • slurred speech or memory loss
  • a very high temperature, feel hot and shivery, and have a stiff neck or a rash
  • drowsiness or confusion
  • severe pain and redness in one of your eyes

Your Medication Isnt Working

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If normal over-the-counter medications arent working, it may be time to see the doctor, says Grosberg. Also, if you use a prescription that has suddenly stopped working, you should also consult your doctor. There are many new options of medication including Zembrace, which can help get rid of a migraine in as quickly as 10 minutes.

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Ways To Tame Tension Headaches

If you ever had a tension headache, you know it can put a damper on your day. This kind of headache usually develops in the afternoon, causing mild or moderate pain that may feel like dull tightness or a band of pressure. Tension headaches occur when neck, shoulder, and scalp muscles become tense. Some people experience tension headaches from time to time others get them more often. While a tension headache is rarely debilitating, it can certainly make life miserable.

If you have frequent tension headaches , here are some strategies that can show you how to get rid of a headache.

  • Pay attention to the basics. Get enough sleep, don’t skip meals, and be sure to pace yourself to avoid stress and fatigue.
  • Relaxation techniques. Physical and psychological relaxation therapies can help stave off tension headaches, so long as you practice these techniques regularly. Physical approaches include applying a heating pad to your neck and shoulders to relax the muscles. Exercising these muscles also helps by strengthening and stretching them. Guided imagery exercises that help you focus your attention on various parts of your body in order to relax them and release tension and stress can also help.
  • Throbbing Pain On One Or Both Sides Of The Head

    Pulsating pain is a classic sign of migraines. The throbbing is often felt on one side of the head.

    In an online survey of patients with migraines, the National Headache Foundation found that 50% “always” have throbbing on one side, while 34% say they “frequently” have this symptom.

    Migraine pain often burrows behind the eye.

    People will blame it on eye strain and many will get their eyes checked, but that won’t make their headaches any better, Dr. Messina says.

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    How To Tell If Your Headache Is Serious

    Usually, its clear when a headache is just a headache. But how can you tell if the pain is actually something more dangerous?

    Dr. Hamad Farhat, a neurosurgeon at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., says headaches can be a sign of serious health issues such as carbon monoxide poisoning, a concussion, stroke or high blood pressure.

    Migraines usually only affect one side of the head, will last for about two to 72 hours and are typically made worse by physical activity or certain lights, sounds or smells. With the help of rest and ibuprofen, the migraine should eventually fade.

    Alternatively, Dr. Farhat says the below signs usually indicate that your brain pain may be an emergency or something much worse than a migraine:

    • Slurred speech
    • Inability to move your arms or legs on one side of the body
    • Nausea
    • The pain comes suddenly instead of forming gradually over time
    • Youd describe the pain as the worst youve ever experienced
    • The pain is limiting your ability to function or do everyday tasks

    While migraines may cause blurred vision or feelings of nausea, its important to remember that emergent headaches typically are described as the worst ever experienced, involve more than one of the above symptoms or happen quickly and abruptly, says Dr. Farhat. If you feel like your headache is more than just a migraine or regular headache, you should never second guess yourself. See a physician immediately or call 911.

    You Have Dramatic Changes In Personality

    What are Migraines? (HealthSketch)

    If you’re experiencing a sudden and drastic change in your personality, Scott McDougall , the director ofThe Independent Pharmacy, told INSIDER that this can be a sign that your migraine indicates a bigger problem.

    “If you or someone close to you has noticed you’re more irritable than usual, you’re confused, or you’re feeling depressed, it can be a red flag for something bigger,” he explained.

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    Headache Caused By High Blood Pressure

    Extremely high blood pressure can cause a headache in people with or without diagnosed hypertension.

    This type of headache only happens when blood pressure is severely elevated to 180/120 millimeters of mercury or higher, according to the American Heart Association. Normal blood pressure is 120/80 mm Hg.

    When blood pressure is extremely elevated, its a medical emergency known as a hypertensive crisis, and medical attention is needed right away.

    Can I Prevent Chronic Migraines

    Taking care of yourself every day may prevent your migraines from turning into a long-term problem. For instance:

    Catch some ZZZs. Not getting enough sleep can trigger a migraine. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of rest each night.

    Watch your diet. While caffeine can soothe your pain, stopping it suddenly is a common cause of migraine. Other common food triggers include MSG , nitrates in cured meats like hot dogs, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol.

    Manage your stress. Tension and worry are common triggers. Try to carve out a few minutes each day to do something you love, or learn to breathe deeply when youâre in the midst of a crisis. You might join a support group or talk to a counselor.

    Have a meal plan. Fasting and skipping meals can trigger headaches. Try to eat around the same times each day.

    Get moving. Exercise is a good way to ease your anxiety and stress. It can also help you get to, and stay at, a healthy weight. Since obesity raises your risk of chronic migraines, getting in shape is crucial.

    Know your triggers. Not all migraines result from triggers. But if yours do, that set of triggers is unique to you. To learn what yours are, keep a headache diary. Each time you have an attack, write down details about what you were doing, how long the headache lasted, and how you felt before it started. This will help you begin to notice patterns — and avoid your triggers.

    Show Sources

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    Its The Worst Headache Of Your Life

    If you normally suffer from headaches, this will feel worse. Sometimes called thunderclap headaches, the American Migraine Foundation, notes that these may develop to full force in less than one minute, last 5 minutes or longer, and have no obvious trigger. They may or may not have a serious underlying cause, but they do need to be checked out immediately. Emad Estemalik, MD, clinical assistant professor of medicine at The Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine, says that if this is the absolute worst headache of your life, you may want to head straight to the emergency room for evaluation.

    Headaches Due To Referred Pain

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    Some headaches can be caused by pain in some other part of the head, such as tooth or ear pain, pain in the jaw joint and pains in the neck.

    Sinusitis is a common cause. The sinuses are ‘holes’ in the skull which are there to stop it from being too heavy for the neck to carry around. They are lined with mucous membranes, like the lining of your nose, and this produces mucus in response to colds or allergy. The lining membranes also swell up and may block the drainage of the mucus from the space. It then becomes thickened and infected, leading to headache. The headache of sinusitis is often felt at the front of the head and also in the face or teeth. Often the face feels tender to pressure, particularly just below the eyes and beside the nose. You may have a stuffy nose and the pain is often worse when you bend forwards. Acute sinusitis is the type that comes on quickly in association with a cold or sudden allergy. You may have a temperature and be producing a lot of mucus. Chronic sinusitis can be caused by allergy, by overusing decongestants or by an acute sinusitis that doesn’t settle. The sinuses become chronically infected and the sinus linings chronically swollen. The contents of the sinuses may be thick but often not infected.

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    I Get Migraines Right Before My Period Could They Be Related To My Menstrual Cycle

    More than half of migraines in women occur right before, during, or after a woman has her period. This often is called “menstrual migraine.” But, just a small fraction of women who have migraine around their period only have migraine at this time. Most have migraine headaches at other times of the month as well.

    How the menstrual cycle and migraine are linked is still unclear. We know that just before the cycle begins, levels of the female hormones, estrogen and progesterone, go down sharply. This drop in hormones may trigger a migraine, because estrogen controls chemicals in the brain that affect a woman’s pain sensation.

    Talk with your doctor if you think you have menstrual migraine. You may find that medicines, making lifestyle changes, and home treatment methods can prevent or reduce the pain.

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