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How To Tell If Your Having A Migraine

Treatment For Migraine With Aura

What happens to your brain during a migraine – Marianne Schwarz

Once you’re correctly diagnosed with Migraine with aura, it’s essential to find a treatment that works for you. There is currently no treatment that specifically targets the aura phase of an attack.

Available treatments address symptoms of the attack as a whole and/or try to stop the attack entirely. Some medications and devices are FDA-approved for Migraine, others are approved for Migraine with aura, and some are approved for both.

Most people with Migraine treat their symptoms during an attack. If your attacks are frequent, it’s highly recommended to add preventive treatments to stop them before they strike.

Reduction in frequency and severity of Migraine attacks is the primary goal for prevention. However, when an attack strikes, you may need acute medication to treat it.

Be warned: not all Migraine medications are safe for everyone. It’s vital to talk to your headache specialist about the best plan for you.

Acute medications include

How Can You Tell The Difference

It can be hard to tell the difference between a migraine with aura and a TIA. Here’s what to look for:

  • With a stroke, symptoms usually come on suddenly. With a migraine, they happen gradually the headache usually starts small and gets more painful.
  • A stroke is more likely to have what are called “negative” symptoms such as you might lose sight in one eye or lose feeling in one of your hands or feet. A migraine is more likely to have “positive” symptoms. That means added sensations, like flashes in your vision or tingling in your skin.
  • If you’re young, it’s more likely to be a migraine. If you’re older, it’s more likely to be a stroke, especially if you’ve never had a migraine before or you have high blood pressure or an irregular heartbeat.

When Should I Call The Doctor

If you think your headaches may be migraines, you’ll want to see a doctor to treat them and learn ways to try to avoid getting the headaches in the first place. Sometimes relaxation exercises or changes in diet or sleeping habits are all that’s needed. But if needed, a doctor also can prescribe medicine to help control the headaches.

You’ll also want to see a doctor if you have any of these symptoms as well as a headache:

  • changes in vision, such as blurriness or seeing spots
  • tingling sensations
  • skin rash
  • weakness, dizziness, or difficulty walking or standing
  • neck pain or stiffness
  • fever

If you do see a doctor for headaches, he or she will probably want to do an exam and get your to help figure out what might be causing them.

The doctor may ask you:

  • how severe and frequent your headaches are
  • when they happen
  • about any medicine you take
  • about any allergies you have
  • if you’re feeling stressed
  • about your diet, habits, sleeping patterns, and what seems to help or worsen the headaches

The doctor may also do blood tests or imaging tests, such as a CAT scan or MRI of the brain, to rule out medical problems.

Sometimes doctors will refer people with headaches they think might be migraines or a symptom of a more serious problem to a specialist like a , a doctor who specializes in the brain and nervous system.

It’s very rare that headaches are a sign of something serious. But see a doctor if you get headaches a lot or have a headache that:

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Foods And Food Additives

Certain foods and beverages, particularly alcoholic beverages, can be triggers. The flavor enhancer monosodium glutamate can also be a trigger, as can caffeine.

Foods containing the amino acid tyramine have been associated with migraine onset. Examples include aged cheese, smoked fish, chicken livers, figs, certain beans, and red wine.

The nitrates in cured meats such as bacon, hot dogs, salami, and other lunch meats are a trigger for some.

Research has also suggested that the artificial sweeteners aspartame and sucralose can be triggers.

And for some people, fruits such as avocados, bananas, and citrus as well as some nuts and seeds can trigger migraine.

Missing or skipping meals can trigger attacks, too.

One approach to discovering migraine food triggers is to try an elimination diet, in which certain foods are eliminated from the diet for a few weeks, then reintroduced one at a time to see whether a migraine attack occurs.

However, a given food does not always trigger a migraine attack sometimes another trigger, such as a change in the weather, also has to be present for an attack to take place. Or a certain amount of food has to be consumed before it has an effect, according to an article published in June 2020 in the journal Nutrients.

For that reason, most experts recommend consulting your physician before trying an elimination diet for migraine and, if you do decide to try it, working with a registered dietitian to maintain good nutrition.

Stroke Or Migraine How To Recognize The Differences In Symptoms

How To Tell If You Have A Headache Or A Migraine

While its always advisable to seek emergency medical treatment by calling 911 for any signs of stroke, even if youre not sure, there are subtle differences in symptoms that may give you a clue as to whether its a stroke or migraine.

Here are some questions to ask that may help you identify:

  • Abrupt or gradual? A stroke typically comes on suddenly, without warning. Symptoms are immediately at peak intensity. A migraine aura usually occurs gradually, with symptoms evolving over several minutes and any accompanying headache building to a peak over time.
  • Increased or decreased vision changes? With migraine you see it, with stroke you dont. Someone having a migraine with aura will experience added visual stimuli, such as flashing lights or zigzagging lines. A stroke, on the other hand, typically diminishes vision bumping into something may be the first clue that vision has been impaired.
  • Past history of migraine? Although its possible to have a first migraine at any age, its more typical to begin having them as a child. Most migraine sufferers will also recognize their aura, as it tends to be the same every time. If you have never had a migraine or your migraine symptoms differ from their normal course, get to the closest ER or urgent care center. With stroke, its also possible to have one at any age or in any physical shape, so dont ever rule it out. Call 911 immediately, because its better to be safe than sorry.

Revised 4/27/2021

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Some Pointers If Youve Decided To Talk To Your Employer About Your Headaches

Claire Thomson

If you are a headache or migraine sufferer and have made the decision to discuss your medical condition with your employer, you may not know where to begin.

Its ultimately your call on how or even if you want to talk to your boss about your condition, and you have no obligation to do so. However, if you decide this is a conversation you want to have, here are some pointers on how you could possibly approach this discussion.

Telling your boss about headaches or migraines at work can be stressful because there can be a stigma attached to them, says Lisa Brateman, LCSW, a psychotherapist and relationship specialist who practices in New York City. Her suggestions:

Leave Shame at the Door. First things first: Dont feel ashamed about your condition, Brateman says. You can offer just as much as someone who doesnt suffer from headaches or migraines, she says.

. You might think through how often you get headaches or migraines and when they are debilitating. Does your boss need advance warning? Possibly, if you get headaches often, says Brateman: You want to warn them so that if you start calling in sick or not following through, you dont have to backtrack and say, This is why.

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.

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What Happens During A Migraine Aura

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.

Take Stock Of Your Triggers

Talking while having an ocular migraine

Whether you suffer from headaches or migraines, certain triggers can exacerbate both conditions.

Stress, dehydration, sleep , diet, intense exercise in some cases and environmental changes like an increase in pollen or barometric changes are the major sources of head pain, according to both Cabin and Hutchinson. These triggers can catapult both tension headaches and migraines, but those who experience migraines will consistently experience head pain from one or a few of these triggers while a tension headache may only spur from one of these issues every so often.

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Sinus Headache Vs Migraine

Pain with a runny or stuffy nose is the typical symptom of a sinus headache. But did you know that a migraine can also cause these symptoms? The difference is in the color of your mucus:

  • If your mucus is clear and runny, it could be a migraine.
  • Sinus headaches can be a sign of a sinus infection that causes your mucus to thicken and sometimes turn a yellowish color.

When To Call A Doctor About Your Migraines

If you’re not getting satisfactory relief from over-the-counter medications and lifestyle changes, or if you’re taking over-the-counter medications more than 10 to 15 times per month, talk to your primary care physician about your headaches.

“The evaluation of headaches usually starts with the primary care doctor, who assesses whether a patient has a common headache or something more serious,” says Santiago Mazuera Mejia, MD, a neurologist at the Sandra and Malcolm Berman Brain & Spine Institute at LifeBridge Health in Baltimore, Maryland. “Primary care doctors often continue to see people with infrequent migraines. However, if at some point, there is a need for more complex treatments, patients usually go to neurologists and headache specialists who have additional training in preventive and acute treatments as well as nonmedical treatments.”

It’s important to get evaluated by a doctor because taking over-the-counter medications too frequently can sometimes lead to serious side effects or actually make you get headaches more often.

It’s helpful to keep a diary if you experience migraines because you may discover your triggers, which can inform which type of treatment is best for you. Write down what time your migraines occur, how long they last, how you slept the night before, what you ate/drank that day and when, how you felt emotionally that day, etc. Then bring that information to your doctor.

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How Migraine And Brain Aneurysm Symptoms Differ

Doctors often describe the head pain caused by a burst aneurysm as a “thunderclap.” The pain comes on in an instant, and it’s very intense. It will feel like the worst headache of your life.

A migraine, on the other hand, tends to come on gradually. While the pain it causes may be intense, it usually doesn’t hit you all at once.

The suddenness and intensity of a brain aneurysm are its hallmarks — and the best way to tell it apart from a migraine.

Seizures are another symptom that may show up during a burst aneurysm. You don’t get that with a migraine.

If you lose consciousness, it’s also a sign that you have a brain aneurysm, not a migraine.

How A Migraine Feels Compared To A Headache

SEE: Do you have a headache or a migraine?

One of the biggest differences between a headache and a migraine is the sensations you feel. People who have headaches often feel:

  • Pressure and pain in varying frequencies and intensities
  • Pain extended to the neck or face

People with migraines often experience similar signs, along with additional symptoms such as:

  • Throbbing pain
  • Neck stiffness
  • Seeing colored spots or floaters

Typically, migraines bring on more symptoms than headaches, and those symptoms can be more severe. However, it really depends on what’s causing your headache. Severe headaches could also lead to more intense symptoms.

If you aren’t exactly sure if youre experiencing migraine pain or headache pain, call your doctor or head to and explain the pain. They’ll help you determine if you’re experiencing a headache or a migraine.

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What Are The Symptoms Of Migraine

The exact cause of migraine isnt known. Its believed that changes in levels of chemicals that are produced by the brain, such as serotonin, may affect how the nervous system regulates pain. Genetic and environmental factors may also play a role in causing migraine.

The symptoms of a migraine attack can include:

  • pain thats moderate to severe, often characterized as throbbing or pulsing
  • pain that typically impacts one side of your head, but can also affect both sides
  • sensitivity to lights and sounds
  • nausea and vomiting
  • pain that gets worse with physical activity

Additionally, migraine can also impact the area of your sinuses. When this happens, you may feel pain in your face or around your eyes.

An found that 45.8 percent of people with migraine had symptoms that impacted their nose and eyes, such as:

  • a runny nose

According to research, many people who have pain in the sinus region are actually experiencing migraine or another type of headache. Sinus headache is the most common incorrect diagnosis given to someone who really has migraine.

An found that 88 percent of participants with a history of sinus headache actually met the clinical criteria for migraine.

So, how do you know if youre experiencing sinus pain or migraine?

When trying to tell the two conditions apart, there are a couple of important things to consider, including symptoms and timing.

What Are The Stages Of A 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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Other Types Of Headaches

Other rare types of headaches include these varieties:

  • Cluster Headache These intensely painful headaches last 15 to 180 minutes without treatment and happen in cycles, or clusters.
  • Paroxysmal Hemicranias Severe, sometimes throbbing pain on one side of the face or around the eyes lasts 2 to 30 minutes and occurs more than 5 times a day.
  • Ice-Pick Headache As the name implies, an ice-pick headache is a migraine characterized by stabbing pain. Fortunately, it is relatively uncommon and typically short in duration.
  • Intractable Headache Any headache, including migraine, that doesn’t respond to treatment.
  • Occipital Neuralgia This disorder causes pain in the back of the head and upper neck.

What Is Migraine Symptoms Causes Diagnosis Treatment And Prevention

What Is a Migraine Headache?

Migraine is a neurological disease characterized by repeated episodes of symptoms, called attacks, that usually include headache, often accompanied by nausea vomiting sensitivity to light, touch, smell, or sound dizziness visual disturbances and tingling or numbness in the face, hands, or feet.

Migraine attacks may come on suddenly without warning, or they may be preceded by certain known triggers, such as skipping a meal, being exposed to smoke or air pollution, or experiencing a change in hormone levels as part of the menstrual cycle. Most migraine attacks last from 4 to 72 hours, although effective treatment can shorten them to a matter of hours. On the other hand, some migraine attacks can last even longer than 72 hours.

Having migraine can be disabling and can lead to missing days of school or work, being less productive at school or work, being unable to perform household responsibilities, and missing out on family, social, and leisure activities.

An estimated 1 billion people worldwide, and 39 million Americans, have migraine.

While a variety of triggers can set off migraine attacks, they dont directly cause the attacks or the underlying disease.

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When To See A Doctor And What Theyll Ask You

Start by making a long appointment to see a GP to discuss your headache and nothing else. Give it the time and attention it deserves.

Its helpful to take a record of your headaches for your doctors appointment: a headache diary.

The most important tool doctors have to diagnose headaches is your history. You may feel they are asking a lot of questions, but thats because there are so many possible causes. Bear with your GP as they try to get you the most accurate diagnosis.

Here are the kinds of questions a doctor may ask, or be asking themselves while they assess you:

Is the pain caused by something straightforward?

Possible common causes include dehydration, eye/neck strain, teeth grinding, lack of sleep or caffeine withdrawal. Even taking regular painkillers can cause medication overuse headaches the cure can become the cause.

Where in your head is the pain?

Sometimes the location of the pain gives a clue. For example, about 35% of headaches are tension headaches, which feel like a tight band around both sides of your head. Another 4% are cluster headaches, which start behind one eye and are often associated with a stuffy nose.

Do you have any other symptoms accompanying the headache?

A migraine episode may be preceded by an aura , and often includes symptoms like nausea or vomiting, extreme sensitivity to noise and light, and blurred vision.

Is there a pattern to your headaches?

Do you have any other medical conditions?


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