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How To Tell If Migraine

How To Tell If You Have A Migraine

How to tell if your headache is actually 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 55,763 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.

Why Headaches Can Be So Costly For Us All

If you can avoid going to hospital unnecessarily when you have a headache, youll benefit yourself and Australias health-care system.

Every time you present to an emergency department, it costs you hours of your life, and the community an average of A$561.

Seeing your GP is obviously more time-efficient and instead costs the community between A$38 to A$75.

If headaches interfere with your life, please prioritise your health. See a doctor, get a management plan for them and save yourself a painfully long wait in emergency.

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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What Are The Symptoms Of A Migraine

You’re more likely to have a migraine headache if:

  • You have moderate to severe throbbing pain that may be worse on one side of your head.
  • The pain gets worse the more physically active you are. Lying down may help.
  • You have pain around your eyes or temples.
  • Light, sounds, and smells feel uncomfortable or hurt.
  • You’re nauseous.
  • You see things like wavy lines, dots, or flashing lights. About 1 in 5 people with a migraine have this.
  • Your arm or face tingles just before your headache starts.

Stages Of A Migraine Attack

How To Tell If You Have A Headache Or A Migraine

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.

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How Do I Know If Im Having A Migraine

How do I know if Im having a migraine? As it turns out, you wont have to think about it for long. In fact, a study published by the National Institutes of Health found that answering just 3 quick questions can help you determine with 95% accuracy whether youre having a migraine. Take the quick migraine screening test below. Then come back to learn more about the real-world symptoms that may indicate a migraine.

Those who get severe and / or frequent headaches may often ask, how do I know if Im having a migraine? If youve ever wondered if you have a migraine coming on, youre not alone. In fact, according to the Migraine Research Foundation, 12% of the population suffers from

migraine, making it the worlds 3rd most common illness. To those who get them, theres no doubt: migraine attacks are debilitating. But for someone whos never had one before, it might be difficult to know what a migraine actually feels like. When you feel a bad headache coming on, you might wonder if its just another headache or a full-fledged migraine attack. If youre unsure whether your headaches rise to the level of migraine, here are some signs and symptoms that may indicate your headache is more than just a headache. Refer to this list the next time you ask, how do I know if Im having a migraine?

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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So What Exactly Are Migraines And Why Do People Get Them

According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a migraine is a brain disease that causes various uncomfortable symptoms that can last anywhere from four hours up to three days.

While the exact cause of migraine headaches is unknown, the Migraine Research Foundation says that both genes and environmental factors likely play a role. We also know that the symptoms are brought on by a change in chemical activity that impacts both the central and peripheral nervous systems, explains Jessica Ailani, M.D., director of the MedStar Georgetown Headache Center in Washington D.C.

Migraine Or Headache How To Tell The Difference

How To Tell If Your Headache Is A Migraine?

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.

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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.

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What Are Some Ways I Can Prevent Migraine

The best way to prevent migraine is to find out what triggers your attacks and avoid or limit these triggers. Since migraine headaches are more common during times of stress, finding healthy ways to cut down on and cope with stress might help. Talk with your doctor about starting a fitness program or taking a class to learn relaxation skills.

Talk with your doctor if you need to take your pain-relief medicine more than twice a week. Doing so can lead to rebound headaches. If your doctor has prescribed medicine for you to help prevent migraine, take them exactly as prescribed. Ask what you should do if you miss a dose and how long you should take the medicine. Talk with your doctor if the amount of medicine you are prescribed is not helping your headaches.

Can Using Birth Control Pills Make My Migraines Worse

In some women, birth control 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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Articles On Tension Headaches

Whether you’ve had headaches for years or you started getting them recently, it’s important to know what type of headache you’re dealing with. That way, you can get the right treatment.

A tension-type headache is the most common headache. Up to 78% of Americans will get them at some point. You might have them every once in a while, and they may disappear within a few hours. Or they may happen more often and last all day.

Migraine headaches aren’t as common. About 15% of adults in the U.S. get them. But they can be much more painful and draining. They usually last between 4 and 72 hours.

The kind of symptoms you get, how long they last, and how intense they are can be very different for migraines and tension-type headaches. Here’s what you need to know.

You Also Have A Stiff Neck Or High Fever

How To Tell If Your Headache Is Deadly

If you have a headache and a fever, you may think its the flu. But add in the telltale symptom of a stiff neck, and you may have meningitis.

The infection, which can be bacterial or viral, affects the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. The swelling of these membranes is what can trigger a headache and stiff neck. You may also have nausea, vomiting or even seizures if you have meningitis. Although meningitis is hard to diagnose because it can mimic other infections, if you have a headache along with these other symptoms, its best to get checked by your doctor.

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Are Migraines Linked To Aneurysms

Migraine headaches don’t cause aneurysms to form or burst. And they aren’t a sign that you’re about to have a burst aneurysm.

Studies show that some people with an aneurysm that hasn’t burst may get migraines in the weeks and months before it bursts. But there’s no evidence that migraines and aneurysms happen at the same time.

Some research suggests that people who get migraines have a greater risk for a brain aneurysm, but more study is needed.

When To Get Medical Advice

You should see a GP if you have frequent or severe migraine symptoms that cannot be managed with occasional use of over-the-counter painkillers, such as paracetamol.

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 medicine, 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

These symptoms may be a sign of a more serious condition, such as a stroke or meningitis, and should be assessed by a doctor as soon as possible.

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What Questions Should I Ask My Healthcare Provider

  • Will my child grow out of their migraines?
  • What medications do you recommend for me?
  • What should I change about my lifestyle to prevent my migraine headaches?
  • Should I get tested?
  • What type of migraine do I have?
  • What can my friends and family do to help?
  • Are my migraines considered chronic?

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Migraine headaches can be devastating and make it impossible to go to work, school or experience other daily activities. Fortunately, there are some ways to possibly prevent a migraine and other ways to help you manage and endure the symptoms. Work with your healthcare provider to keep migraines from ruling your life.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/03/2021.


How Are Migraines Diagnosed

How Do I Know If My Headache Is a Migraine?

Your doctor can diagnose migraines by the symptoms you describe. If the diagnosis is not clear, your doctor will perform a physical exam. Your doctor might want to do blood tests or imaging tests, such as an MRI or CAT scan of the brain. These tests can ensure there are no other causes for the headache. You may also be asked to keep a headache journal. This can help your doctor identify the things that might cause your migraines.

If headache pain is getting in the way of your daily activities, its time to see your family doctor. Read More

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Stress Can Be A Factor

It is also important for parents to understand that children who are emotionally upset can also cause an increase in frequency of migraine headaches.

Prescribed medications taken daily can be used for those children who are having very frequent headaches and in whom healthy habits are not decreasing the frequency of migraine headaches.

Causes Risk Factors And Triggers

The exact cause of migraine headaches is unknown. However, women are at a higher risk of suffering from the disease. They usually occurs during adolescence and tends to peak when people are in their 30s. Other risk factors are family history, hormonal changes and medical conditions like epilepsy, bipolar disorder, sleep disorders and depression. Common triggers include emotional stress, skipping meals, caffeine, changes to your sleep, and daily use of pain-relieving medications.

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When To See A Doctor

If your tension headaches are chronic, or ongoing, I always tell my patients to err on the side of caution and schedule a visit. Depending on the severity and length of your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe medicines to prevent tension headaches from recurring.

How To Tell If You Have A Headache Sinus Pain Or A Migraine


Headaches in any form can be disruptive to our lives, but not all of them are the same.

According to experts, most people dont know the difference between various types of headaches, like sinus headaches and migraines. That can make a painful situation so much worse.

Knowing which issue youre dealing with is vital to treating it. So HuffPost reached out to the experts to help walk you through the differences, dispel some myths and help you learn more about what you may be experiencing. Here are the different types and what you can do about each of them:

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