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How To Test For Migraine Headaches

Headache Or Migraine That Is The Question

Tests That Determine Cause of Headaches

Headaches sometimes tell you about your lifestyle: your life is too hectic, you arent getting enough sleep, you have poor posture at work, or youve had too much alcohol to drink. Often, the headache is talking to you, and you answer by taking a painkiller which, most of the time, makes it go away without further ado. Yet for some, less fortunate people, this pain is a backdrop to their daily lives. In this case, we say they suffer from migraines.

It is important to distinguish between headaches, technically known as cephalalgia, and migraines. There are several types of headaches. We will start by describing the three most common: tension headaches, cluster headaches, and migraine headaches.

  • Tension headaches:This type of headache may be occasional or chronic. Symptoms are of mild to moderate intensity. Pressure is felt around the forehead and temples sometimes it is accompanied by neck pain. This type of headache does not cause nausea or vomiting.
  • Cluster headaches:This type of headache may occur from once every two days to eight times a day it lasts from a few minutes to several hours. The pain is very intense, penetrating but not pulsating, and is located on just one side of the head. The pain may be accompanied by tears, congestion and sweating.
  • Migraine And Other Vascular Disease

    People who suffer from migraine headaches are more likely to also have cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease . Reliable evidence comes from the Women’s Health Study, which found that migraine with aura raised the risk of myocardial infarction by 91% and ischemic stroke by 108% and that migraine without aura raised both risks by approximately 25%. Migraines during pregnancy are also linked to stroke and vascular diseases. A 2017 analysis of the Women’s Health Study found that women who experience migraine headaches, particularly migraine without aura, may be at increased risk for hypertension. Compared with women without a history of migraine, those who experienced migraine with aura had about a 9% increased risk for hypertension while those who experienced migraine without aura had about a 21% increased risk.

    Migraine with aura for women in midlife has a statistically significant association with late-life vascular disease in the cerebellum. This association is not seen in migraine without aura.

    How Are Migraines In Children Treated

    Migraines do go away on their own, but they can be miserable while they last. Fortunately, there are things you can do to make your child more comfortable during a migraine. Acting quickly can help shorten the migraine and make it less severe.

    • Hydration: Being dehydrated can be a trigger for headaches, so if you think a child has a migraine the first step is to offer them something to drink. This is especially important if vomiting or refusing to eat are part of the childs migraine symptoms. Of course, children who are vomiting or not eating for an extended period of time should see a medical provider.

    • Sleep: At all ages, sleep is an important part of recovering from a migraine headache. If your child develops a migraine, dont be surprised if they just want to go to bed. Its not unusual for kids with migraines to need some extra sleep time as they start to recover.

    • Peace and quiet: Things that happen in the environment loud sounds, strong smells, and bright lights all seem more intense to someone who has a migraine. In fact, those things can start to feel like pain. Young children may not be able to move to a different environment where they are more comfortable. Even older children might not understand what theyre feeling. If you think a child might have a migraine, give them a dark place to rest that is protected from the activity of the outside world.

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    Can You Prevent Migraine

    If youve already been diagnosed with migraine, your doctor can help you figure out the best prevention methods. Often, your first step will be keeping a migraine journal so that you can figure out what triggers your attacks and avoid them.

    Many migraine triggers are related to everyday health habits. This includes:

    • not getting enough sleep
    • not exercising enough
    • being under stress

    For some people, managing those things can help you prevent or lessen migraine. You can also avoid common trigger foods and drinks, such as:

    • chocolate

    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?

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    How To Know You’re Experiencing A Migraine

    Migraines are recurrent episodes that usually manifest with headaches, and they can be accompanied by other symptoms as well. The experience is often so distressing and similar to other neurological illnesses that it is not safe to assume that you are having a migraine before other serious conditions are ruled out.

    Migraine diagnosis can take timewhile your medical history is the key to diagnosis, medical tests may confirm whether your recurrent episodes are actually migraines.

    How Are Migraines Diagnosed

    To diagnose a migraine, your healthcare provider will get a thorough medical history, not just your history of headaches but your familys, too. Also, they’ll want to establish a history of your migraine-related symptoms, likely asking you to:

    • Describe your headache symptoms. How severe are they?
    • Remember when you get them. During your period, for example?
    • Describe the type and location of your pain. Is the pain pounding? Pulsing? Throbbing?
    • Remember if anything makes your headache better or worse.
    • Tell how often you get migraine headaches.
    • Talk about the activities, foods, stressors or the situations that may have brought on the migraine.
    • Discuss what medications you take to relieve the pain and how often you take them.
    • Tell how you felt before, during and after the headache.
    • Remember if anyone in your family gets migraine headaches.

    Your healthcare provider may also order blood tests and imaging tests to make sure there are no other causes for your headache. An electroencephalogram may be ordered to rule out seizures.

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    What Causes Migraines In Females

    Women who have a history of migraines tend to report that the attacks typically start either right before or during their periods. This may be due to the fact that menstruation causes a drop in estrogen, or the female hormone. Some women report increased migraine attacks during pregnancy or menopause these factors also lead to changes in estrogen levels.

    Does Magnesium Deficiency Play A Role In The Development Of Migraines

    Neck and Cervicogenic Headache Test

    Researchers and scientists have long theorized that magnesium deficiency plays a role in the development of migraines. However, reliably measuring magnesium levels in the body can be difficult, which makes proving that hypothesis challenging.

    Dr. Alexander Mauskop, a leading researcher in migraines, has helped shed light on the role of magnesium deficiency in the occurrence of migraines. In one of his studies, Mauskop observed that people who did not get relief from a popular and effective migraine medication had low levels of magnesium in the blood. After increasing these levels, the individuals found relief.

    In another study, people who were deficient in red blood cell magnesium and received magnesium infusions for their migraine attacks also found relief. In comparison, those that experienced migraine attacks but werent deficient in RBC magnesium did not find relief.

    Other studies have hypothesized the reason for low magnesium levels among people with migraines. Some suggest that stress caused by migraines leads to over-excretion of magnesium. Others propose that general stress causes excessive secretion of magnesium, thereby lowering magnesium levels and causing a migraine.

    Ultimately, it is possible that magnesium deficiency plays a role in migraine, but further research needs to be conducted. This involves developing a reliable means of measuring levels of magnesium in the body, which is currently not available.

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    What Is A Headache

    A headache is pain in the head or upper neck. The two major types of headaches are primary headaches, which are not associated with a medical condition or disease, and secondary headaches, which are caused by an injury or underlying illness, such as a concussion, bleeding in the brain, an infection or a brain tumor.

    Primary headaches include tension, migraine and cluster headaches.

    Symptoms of a tension headache include pressure and a band-like tightness that begins in the back of the head and upper neck, and gradually encircles the head.

    Cluster headaches are headaches that occur in groups, or clusters, over a period of several weeks or months separated by headache-free periods of months or years. During the headache period, the cluster headache sufferer experiences several episodes of pain during the day, each of which lasts 30 to 90 minutes. These attacks, which often occur at the same time of day, include sharp, penetrating pain around or behind one eye, watering of the eye and a stuffy nose.

    Migraine headaches cause intense, throbbing pain, often on one side of the head. Nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to light, sound and exertion often accompany migraines, which can last several hours or up to three days. Some migraine sufferers experience a visual disturbance called an aura prior to the onset of the migraine. Auras are flashing lights, wavy lines, blurry vision or blind spots.

    Are You At Risk For Migraine

    If you suffer from frequent headaches, then does it mean that you are at risk of migraine? There are risk factors that make you more prone to get a migraine. These are as follows.

    • Women are more likely than men to have migraines. Women are three times more prone to having migraines.
    • You are more prone to developing migraines if you already suffer from other medical problems such as epilepsy or depression.
    • If people in your family suffer from migraine problems then there is a high chance that you might develop migraine too.
    • Womens menstruation, pregnancy or menopause can cause migraines to develop. Hormonal changes in women trigger migraines.

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    Economic Impact Of Migraine

    The economic cost resulting from migraine-related loss of productive time in the US workforce is more than $13 billion per year, most of which is in the form of reduced work productivity. In the American Migraine Study, more than 85% of women and 82% of men with severe migraine had some headache-related disability. Migraineur men required 3.8 bed-rest days per year, whereas women required 5.6 bed-rest days per year.

    Imaging Tests Rarely Help

    How To Know If You Have A Headache Or Migraine?

    Doctors see many patients for headaches. And most of them have migraines or headaches caused by tension. Both kinds of headaches can be very painful. But a CT scan or an MRI rarely shows why the headache occurs. And they do not help you ease the pain.

    A doctor can diagnose most headaches during an office visit. The doctor asks you questions about your health and your symptoms. This is called a medical history. Then the doctor does a test of your reflexes, called a neurological exam. If your medical history and exam are normal, imaging tests usually will not show a serious problem.

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    Migraine In Other Inherited Disorders

    Migraine occurs with increased frequency in patients with mitochondrial disorders, such as MELAS . CADASIL is a genetic disorder that causes migraine with aura, strokes before the age of 60, progressive cognitive dysfunction, and behavioral changes.

    CADASIL is inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion, and most patients with the disorder have an affected parent. Approximately 90% of cases result from mutations of the < INOTCH3< I> gene, located on chromosome 19. Patients with CADASIL have significant morbidity from their ailment, and life expectancy is approximately 68 years.

    Migraine is also a common symptom in other genetic vasculopathies, including 2 autosomal dominant disorders: RVCL , which is caused by mutations in the TREX1 gene, and HIHRATL , which is suggested to be caused by mutations in the COL4A1 gene. The mechanisms by which these genetic vasculopathies give rise to migraine are still unclear.

    Take A Detailed History

    Accurate history taking is vitally important in the diagnosis of migraine. It is important to give patients time to describe their attacks fully , and also to clarify the history with specific questions aimed at filling out the gaps in what the patient has told you spontaneously. The diagnosis of migraine lies in the history, and that the purpose of examination is primarily to look for other problems that may be exacerbating an underlying tendency to migraine. This may in most cases be restricted to fundoscopy, inspection and palpation of the head and neck structures, and a brief screening cardiovascular and neurological examination, unless, on the basis of the history, serious intracranial or systemic pathology is suspected.

    It is then useful to ascertain what treatments, current and previous, have been tried, and at what point these treatments are taken. Patients should be asked to bring a list of medications tried in the past, including doses, and be asked why these treatments were abandoned . The use of alternative or complementary therapies should also be sought.

    While superficially there seems to be a lot of information required, it is almost invariably the case that patients will volunteer much of this information without being specifically asked, and it usually does not take too much time to fill out the gaps if a structured approach to the history taking is followed. If there is uncertainty, then encouraging the patient to keep a headache diary can be very useful.

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    Migraine Characteristics And Treatment

    Migraine is characterized most often by unilateral head pain that is moderate to severe, throbbing, and aggravated by activity. It may also be associated with various visual or sensory symptoms, which occur most often before the headache component but which may occur during or after the headache these are collectively known as an aura. Most commonly, the aura consists of visual manifestations, such as scotomas, photophobia, or visual scintillations .

    The head pain may also be associated with weakness. This form of migraine is termed hemiplegic migraine.

    In practice, however, migraine headaches may be unilateral or bilateral and may occur with or without an aura. In the current International Headache Society categorization, the headache previously described as classic migraine is now known as migraine with aura, and the headache that was described as common migraine is now termed migraine without aura. Migraines without aura are the most common, accounting for more than 80% of all migraines.

    The diagnosis of migraine is clinical in nature, based on criteria established by the International Headache Society. A full neurologic examination should be performed during the first visit, to exclude other disorders the findings are usually normal in patients with migraine. Neuroimaging is not necessary in a typical case, but other diagnostic investigations may be indicated to guide management.

    Gathering Your Medical History

    Diagnosing Headaches

    Your doctor will need to gather a lot of information about your personal medical history and your family medical history to diagnose migraine.

    Theyll ask you to provide as many details as you can about your symptoms. Theyll also want to know about any other medical conditions youve been diagnosed with and about any other symptoms youve been having recently.

    Youll be asked about your diet, stress levels, activity levels, and other aspects of your lifestyle.

    Your doctor might ask you to keep a migraine journal until your next appointment. In the journal, youll record every time you have pain and describe what that pain feels like.

    You can also record anything you do for the pain at home and whether it helps at all. For example, you might want to make note of whether certain over-the-counter medications help.

    Youll need to provide as much family health history as you can. Since migraine tends to run in families, its important for the doctor to know whether you have any relatives whove been diagnosed with migraine. Its also important to let them know about any other conditions that run in your family.

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    What Are The Symptoms Of Migraines

    The primary symptom of migraine is a headache. Pain is sometimes described as pounding or throbbing. It can begin as a dull ache that develops into pulsing pain that is mild, moderate or severe. If left untreated, your headache pain will become moderate to severe. Pain can shift from one side of your head to the other, or it can affect the front of your head, the back of your head or feel like its affecting your whole head. Some people feel pain around their eye or temple, and sometimes in their face, sinuses, jaw or neck.

    Other symptoms of migraine headaches include:

    • Sensitivity to light, noise and odors.
    • Nausea and vomiting, upset stomach and abdominal pain.
    • Loss of appetite.
    • Feeling very warm or cold .
    • Pale skin color .
    • Euphoric mood.


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