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How To Tell If You Get Migraines

How Are They Treated

10 Ways to Prevent Migraines

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.

What’s The Difference Between A Headache And A Migraine

A tension-type headache, the most common type of headache, causes pain on both sides of the head. It’s a tight pressure rather than a throbbing, and you might also have soreness in your temples, neck and shoulder muscles. Headache pain isn’t usually considered ‘severe’.

Migraine, on the other hand, has many symptoms including headache. This can feel like a throbbing pain that might be worse on one side of your head. You can also feel pain around your eyes, temples, face, jaw or neck. The pain may increase with physical activity, which is why it helps to lie down.

But the key difference between a headache and migraine? Migraines can be distressing and debilitating and can affect your whole body. People can feel vaguely unwell for a day or two before a migraine headache comes on . Once it has started, a migraine headache can last for between 4 hours and several days.

“Migraine is a chronic disorder of the brain with recurrent severe attacks… other common features are nausea or even vomiting,” explains Assistant Professor of Neurology Yulia Orlova on The Conversation. “Many people have sensitivity to light, odours or sounds and are unable to carry on daily activity.”

Migraine is ranked the sixth most disabling disease in the world. Global Burden of Disease

What Medications Are Used To Relieve Migraine Pain

Over-the-counter medications are effective for some people with mild to moderate migraines. The main ingredients in pain relieving medications are ibuprofen, aspirin, acetaminophen, naproxen and caffeine.

Three over-the-counter products approved by the Food and Drug Administration for migraine headaches are:

  • Excedrin® Migraine.
  • Advil® Migraine.
  • Motrin® Migraine Pain.

Be cautious when taking over-the-counter pain relieving medications. Sometimes overusing them can cause analgesic-rebound headaches or a dependency problem. If you’re taking any over-the-counter pain medications more than two to three times a week, report that to your healthcare provider. They may suggest prescription medications that may be more effective.

Prescription drugs for migraine headaches include:

Triptan class of drugs :

  • Sumatriptan.
  • Butterbur.
  • Co-enzyme Q10.

Drugs to relieve migraine pain come in a variety of formulations including pills, tablets, injections, suppositories and nasal sprays. You and your healthcare provider will discuss the specific medication, combination of medications and formulations to best meet your unique headache pain.

Drugs to relieve nausea are also prescribed, if needed.

All medications should be used under the direction of a headache specialist or healthcare provider familiar with migraine therapy. As with any medication, it’s important to carefully follow the label instructions and your healthcare providers advice.

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Common Migraine Symptoms You Should Definitely Know About

1. Debilitating throbbing

Patients will tell me, ‘I can feel my heartbeat in my head,’ or talk about touching their temple and feeling the vein throbbing, or feeling like their head will explode, Ailani says. A run-of-the-mill headache, however, causes a dull, aching pain that’s more of an annoyance versus something that throws a wrench in your daily life.

2. Pain on only one side of your head

While migraines can be experienced on both sides of the head, the pain is typically only on one side. A tension headache, however, typically presents as pain all over, and a sinus headache presents as pressure around the cheeks, eyes, and forehead.

It’s still unclear why migraines may present as one-sided. One theory has to do with the trigeminal nerves. However, only one may be activated when a migraine begins, and as this continues to happen with repeated migraines over time, that one nerve becomes the quickest, easiest path for the brain, Ailani explains.

3. Seeing sparking lights or flashes

When a migraine happens, there’s a slow wave of electrical activity from the back to the front of the brain, explains Adelene Jann, M.D., a neurologist at NYU Langone Health. When that happens, there’s also decreased blood flow to the brain, and everything slows down. In turn, about 25 percent of suffers experience an aura either before or during their migraines, according to the Migraine Research Foundation.

4. Weakness and tingling

5. Next level nausea

6. A heightened sense of smell

What Are The Stages Of A Migraine

How To Know If You Have A Headache Or 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.

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How To Treat A Headache Or Migraine At Home

Professional medical help is recommended for severe or recurring headaches and migraines. If you suspect that the “worst headache of your life” may actually be a migraine, it’s best to consult with a doctor on how to move forward.

Still, know that there are some doctor-recommended medications and remedies that you can use at home to find relief from the pain.

  • Over-the-counter medications: A pain medication from your local pharmacy can help temporarily stop the pain of a migraine or headache, including acetaminophen, ibuprofen and aspirin. Excedrin Migraine is also highly recommended, although these medications should not be taken regularly or you can risk overuse .
  • Drug-free pain relief: Heating or cooling packs can both provide an immediate sense of relief from the pain of headaches or migraines. Heat relaxes your muscles, while cold packs have a numbing effect. Also, it helps to minimize triggers: a dark, quiet and calm setting is best.
  • Prescription medications: Your doctor can diagnose you with migraines and help prescribe a prescription medication if necessary, including antidepressants, anti-seizure medications, blood pressure medicines or beta-blockers. Even Botulinum toxin A injections have been shown to help.

Migraine Symptoms In Children And Infants

Generally, children with migraine will experience many of the same symptoms as adults with migraine, says Kumar. These can include headache, light sensitivity, and nausea. Its important to remember you dont need to have all the symptoms of migraine to have it. Children or adolescents may not have all the symptoms of migraine headaches at the time, but they start having some headaches, she says.

Children who experience attacks of abdominal pain associated with loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, and pallor but no headache may be diagnosed with abdominal migraine, assuming other causes of these symptoms can be ruled out.

When very young children and even infants have migraine, it can be challenging to diagnose because they cant articulate their symptoms and you have to look for signs, says Kumar.

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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.

What Causes Migraines

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Doctors dont know exactly what causes migraines. It appears that migraine headaches may be caused in part by changes in the level of a body chemical called serotonin. Serotonin plays many roles in the body, and it can have an effect on the blood vessels. When serotonin levels are high, blood vessels constrict . When serotonin levels fall, the blood vessels dilate . This swelling can cause pain or other problems. Another aspect that is being studied is that migraine headaches go along with a spreading pattern of electrical activity in the brain.

Some research suggests there could be a heredity factor for migraines, meaning they may run in families. Researchers have identified some genes associated with migraines. They are unsure, though, why these genes seem to impact some people more than others. The American Migraine Foundation reports that if one of your parents has migraines, there is a 50% chance that you will, too. If both of your parents have migraines, your chances jump up to 75%. Ultimately, migraines seem to be caused by a combination of factors: genetic, environmental, and lifestyle.

Women are more likely to have chronic migraines . This is likely linked to hormones. Hormones fluctuate each month around the time of your period. They can also fluctuate if you are pregnant or going through menopause.

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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.

How Do Doctors Treat Migraines

If you have a mild to moderate migraine, doctors will have you take:

  • Pain medicine, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin

  • Drugs that relieve nausea, which can help both the nausea and headache

Doctors may tell you to lie down in a dark, quiet room and try to sleep. Migraines often go away during sleep.

If you have a severe migraine doctors may give you:

  • Medicines called triptans, which work best when given right away

  • Medicines for your nausea given through a vein

  • Fluids through a vein if you’re dehydrated from throwing up

If you get frequent migraines, doctors may have you keep a headache diary to write down when you have a migraine, what caused it, and your treatment, so you can look for patterns.

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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.

Light Noise Or Smells Trigger Or Worsen Pain

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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.”

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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

Symptom
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.

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.

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What Symptoms Must You Have To Be Diagnosed With A Migraine

Migraine with aura . This is a headache, plus:

  • Visual symptoms or vision loss.
  • Sensory symptoms .

Migraine without aura . A common migraine is a headache and:

  • The attacks included pain on one side of your head.
  • Youve had at least five attacks, each lasting between four and 72 hours.

Plus, youve experienced at least one of the following:

  • Nausea and/or vomiting.
  • Lights bother you and/or you avoid light.
  • Sounds bother you and/or you avoid sounds.

The Painful Headache Phase Of A Migraine

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This phase can last from several hours up to three days.

According to Kumar, the following symptoms can occur during the headache stage of a migraine attack:

  • Pain on one or both sides of your head
  • Throbbing or pulsating pain
  • Blurred vision
  • Light-headedness and fainting

You dont have to have all the symptoms for it to be a migraine attack, adds Kumar.

When a person has a migraine attack, the symptoms are made worse by routine physical activity, so people typically dont want to move around, says Spears. Usually people want to sit or lie down in a dark, quiet room and try to sleep it off, he says.

Allodynia is a common but often misunderstood symptom of migraine. Its hypersensitivity and pain that results from otherwise nonpainful stimulation such as taking a hot shower, resting your head on a pillow, gently brushing your hair, and other things that you wouldnt think twice about outside of a migraine attack.

Headache Relief

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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.

Identify And Treat Early

Headaches can range from being a mild inconvenience to being severe and debilitating. Identifying and treating headaches as early as possible can help a person engage in preventive treatments to minimize the chance of another headache. Distinguishing migraine from other types of headaches can be tricky. Pay particular attention to the time before the headache starts for signs of an aura and tell your doctor.

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What’s A Migraine And How Is It Different

A migraine is also a type of headache, but it’s also much more than that. Migraine is actually a neurological disorder, with severe headaches being only one symptom.

Other symptoms of migraine include:

  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

Migraine headaches involve extreme pain with a throbbing or pulsing sensation. The pain usually occurs on just one side of the head, lasting from a few hours to several days a time. In fact, it is not uncommon for migraines to sideline your everyday activities, such as work, school or anything else that involves leaving a dark room. Migraine is considered “chronic” when headaches occur for 15 or more days per month.

A migraine occurs in four stages, although not all migraine sufferers experience each one.

Are Migraines Linked To Aneurysms

How To Tell If You Have A Headache Or A Migraine

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.

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