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What Exactly Is A Migraine

What Are The Types Of Migraines

What Exactly Is A Migraine Headache?

Up until this point, we’ve focused on classic migraines, but about 20 percent of people who struggle with migraines experience one of these more unusual types. Understanding the type of migraines you’ve been having can help your doctor treat you more effectively, and also give you greater insight into your migraine triggers .

Ocular migraine

You’ll experience roughly 30 minutes of visual disturbances in one eye.

Hemiplegic migraine

Expect temporary motor weakness , though this is more common in infants and children.

Migraine with brainstem aura

Signs can include slurred speech, ringing in the ears, gait imbalance, vertigo, double vision, and a lower level of consciousness.

Menstrual migraine

This is a migraine that occurs in a woman either just before or during her menstrual cycle.

Abdominal migraine

Most common in children and adolescents, abdominal migraines usually result in severe nausea/vomiting and possible abdominal pain.

Vestibular migraine

You’ll notice extreme sensitivity to motion and dizziness.

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

Aura before onset of headache;x

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.

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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The Phases Of A Migraine

There are two phases that may come before a migraine headache, and one that may come after. You may not experience all of these phases each time you have a migraine:


This can hit up to 24 hours before the headache stars. It can include thirstiness, frequent yawning, food cravings, mood changes, or constipation.


About one-third of migraine sufferers experience something called an aura immediately before or during the headache, which is usually a visual disturbance that features light flashes, blinds spots, and/or tingling throughout the body.


After the headache dissipates, some people feel drained, confused, or dizzy .

Causes And Risk Factors

What Exactly Is A Migraine Headache?

Its not clear exactly what causes migraines. According to one theory, it has something to do with inflamed blood vessels in the brain. The way in which the brain processes pain signals may play a role too. Stress is often an important factor when it comes to pain: Feeling nervous or tense can make the pain worse or more likely to arise in the first place. So hectic days without enough breaks may increase the risk of getting a migraine. Migraines may also start once stress has subsided for instance, on the weekend or during the first few days of vacation.

An irregular eating and sleeping schedule can increase the likelihood of migraine attacks too. There is probably also a connection between migraines, diet and exercise. If you have migraines, you can find out for yourself whether these factors affect you. Keeping a migraine diary can help you do so.

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How Can They Be Stopped

Migraine sufferers can cut an attack short with one of the triptan drugs, a class that includes eletriptan , sumatriptan , and zolmitriptan . The triptan drugs seem to work by inhibiting pain signaling in the brainstem. They also constrict blood vessels, so people with a history of cardiovascular disease are usually advised not to take them.

Pain relievers like ibuprofen and naproxen can halt a mild attack, but rebound headaches may develop if they’re taken too often. Rebound headache occurs after the body gets used to having a medication in its system; when it’s not there, headaches happen. Migraines can quickly snowball into more serious pain, so it’s important to treat the headache early, regardless of the medication.

What Happens In Your Brain During A Migraine

    Scientists used to think migraines were caused by blood vessels on the surface of your brain dilating and constricting, leading to the pulse of pain people often experienced. They saw migraines as being primarily a vascular disorder. Thats changed. We now know that these changes are the end result of a more complex nerve pathway in the brain.

    Today, researchers believe migraines are a neurological disorder thats largely genetically based. They still dont understand everything that happens during a migraine, such as why certain symptoms occurbut they are closer to untangling the mystery of the migraine.

    Heres what researchers believe happens inside your brain to cause the symptoms you are experiencing.

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    So How Is Migraine Treated

    When a migraine occurs, sleeping or lying down in a dark and quiet room can help,along with simple pain relief medication. Your doctor might suggest a group of drugs called triptans, which act on the chemicals and blood vessels in the brain. Anti-sickness medication can also be used if nausea and vomiting are a problem. If these medications are not enough to treat migraine episodes, there is another preventative medication that doctors may try, to reduce the frequency and severity of episodes, although these may not always work. Another way of managing migraines is to avoid the triggers that bring them on. If you keep a diary of migraine symptoms, patterns may emerge that help you identify what triggers to avoid. It can also help to maintain a generally healthy lifestyle, including regular sleep, exercise, and meals, and limiting caffeine, smoking, and alcohol intake. For more exciting stuff please subscribe to our .

    How Can I Prevent Headaches

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    The key to preventing headaches is figuring out what triggers them. Triggers are very specific to each person what gives you a headache may not be a problem for others. Once you determine your triggers, you can avoid or minimize them.

    For example, you may find that strong scents set you off. Avoiding perfumes and scented products can make a big difference in how many headaches you have. The same goes for other common triggers like troublesome foods, lack of sleep and poor posture.

    Many people, however, are not able to avoid triggers or are unable to identify triggers. In that case, a more personalized multidisciplinary approach with a headache specialist is often necessary.

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    Migraines Without Aura Vi

    Migraines without aura are the most common type of migraines, experienced by 70 to 90 percent of migraines sufferers. They begin with pain and no advance warning.

    Episodes of migraine without aura can last between four and up to 72 hours. The headache is usually felt on one side of the head with a throbbing or pulsating pain which can affect daily life.

    What Are The Treatments For Migraine

    There is no specific medication available for migraine as the causes are variable and not fully understood, however, the following treatments have been known to work well for migraines:


    Paracetamol or aspirin are the most popular treatment for sufferers of migraine. It is best to take a dose as early as possible to help reduce the severity of the headache or even stop it completely. Many people donât take a painkiller until the headache has become very severe and this can often lead to the painkiller not working.

    When taking the painkiller use a full dose and repeat every four hours if necessary. It may be best to use soluble tablets as they are absorbed much quicker than solid tablets.

    Anti-inflammatory painkillers

    Anti-inflammatory painkillers are known to work better than paracetamol due to the fact they contain ibuprofen. It is possible to buy ibuprofen over the counter at pharmacies or you could use prescription medication such as naproxen, diclofenac or tolfenamic acid.

    Combination of medicines

    For people who feel nauseous when suffering from a migraine attack, tablets containing both a painkiller and anti sickness medicine may be the best option. Examples of these are Migraleve, Paramax and MigraMax. If the dose of these isnât strong enough you may prefer to take painkillers and anti sickness medicine separately.

    Triptan medicines

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    What Commonly Triggers A Migraine

    People who get migraines may be able to identify triggers that seem to kick off the symptoms. Some possible triggers include the following:

    • Stress and other emotions
    • Biological and environmental conditions, such as hormonal shifts or exposure to light or smells
    • Fatigue and changes in one’s sleep pattern
    • Glaring or flickering lights

    Related Questions Answered On Yanswers

    How To Help A Migraine
    What exactly is a migraine and how is anyone sure that they have one?
    Q: Alternatively ans: What is the best cure for a severe headache/ possible migraine.
    A: Most people think that a bad headache is a migraine. BELIEVE ME you will know if you have one. Basically severe pain, nausea, hard to be around light and sound. the pain is so bad that you are on the verge of screaming but it hurts to bad to even talk. you really cant do anything but lay down. I throw up alot when i get them. Migraines are hard to get rid of without painkillers. but definitely laying in a dark quiet room. putting something really cold on your neck. having someone or if you can yourself rub your temples. and if you can take a hot bath.
    What exactly causes this killer migraine days before my period?
    Q: I get a migraine 2 days before my period every month. Nothing helps it. Not laying down, different medicines, taking a shower, eating, etc.What is it that causes it? Can going on birth control help this?
    A: i think you are a high blood. try to go to doctor and tell that you have always migrain.
    where exactly can migraine pain be in your head?
    Q: like front, rear, left or right, etc.or could it just be anywhere?
    A: Registered Nurse here; Yes a migraine can occur any where in your head.

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    What Headache Symptoms Require Immediate Medical Care

    If you or your child has any of these headache symptoms, get medical care right away:

    • A sudden, new, severe headache
    • A headache that is associated with neurological symptoms such as:
    • Weakness
    • Vision changes
  • Headache with a fever, shortness of breath, stiff neck, or rash
  • Headache pain that awakens you up at night
  • Headaches with severe nausea and vomiting
  • Headaches that occur after a head injury or accident
  • Getting a new type of headache after age 55
  • Symptoms requiring an appointment with your health care provider or a headache specialist

    Contact your health care provider if you or your child has any of the following symptoms:

    • Three or more headaches per week.
    • Headaches that keep getting worse and won’t go away.
    • Need to take a pain reliever every day or almost every day for your headaches.
    • Need more than 2 to 3 doses of over-the-counter medications per week to relieve headache symptoms.
    • Headaches that are triggered by exertion, coughing, bending, or strenuous activity.
    • A history of headaches, but have noticed a recent change in your headache symptoms.

    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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    Are Migraine Headaches More Common In Women Than Men

    Yes. About three out of four people who have migraines are women. Migraines are most common in women between the ages of 20 and 45. At this time of life women often have more job, family, and social duties. Women tend to report more painful and longer lasting headaches and more symptoms, such as nausea and vomiting. All these factors make it hard for a woman to fulfill her roles at work and at home when migraine strikes.

    How Is Migraine Diagnosed And Treated

    What are migraines and how can they be managed?

    Usually the first step is to see your family physician, says Lacey. If your doctor isnt familiar with migraine therapies, or if you have chronic migraine, you may be referred to a neurologist.

    Because there are no biological markers for migraine, it cant be detected with blood work or imaging; physicians diagnose migraine by evaluating symptoms such as auras, motor weakness, vertigo and vomiting according to the International Headache Disorders Classification. Once youve been diagnosed, your physician will start you on a treatment plan.

    A healthy lifestyle is key to managing migraine. Lacey recommends consistency: going to bed and waking up at the same time every day, eating meals every four hours , and exercising regularly. You should drink plenty of water and avoid alcohol, sugary drinks, and excess caffeine. And since stress can be a huge trigger, its important to learn healthy ways to manage stress.

    Your physician can recommend vitamins and minerals that have been shown to help prevent migraine attacks. They will also advise you on the use of over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and naproxen to manage pain.

    If you dont see an improvement after two attempts at oral medication , you become eligible for calcitonin gene-related peptide monoclonal antibody injections. Injected once a month, this medication has been shown to reduce the number, severity, and length of migraine attacks.

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    How Do You Diagnose Auras

    Since auras can cause such a broad range of systems, and sometimes donât even give you a headache, itâs no wonder that itâs not easy to get the right diagnosis.

    Thatâs why itâs so important to speak to a doctor who understands migraines and can recognize symptoms that are easy to mistake for other conditions.

    If you think you might have migraines with aura, it can be helpful to keep a headache diary.

    We recommend taking note of:

    • When your migraine started

    What’s Happening During A Migraine

    Why do some people suffer from the agonizing head pain of migrainesand the nausea and sensitivity to light that can accompany themwhile others don’t? The answer, at the biochemical level, is complicated, but probably boils down to this: Migraine sufferers’ brains are simply more sensitive to outside stimuli than are other people’s brains.

    Migraines used to be blamed on blood vessels in the brain dilating, or opening up. The newer thinking is that the expansion of blood vessels is the result of some other event, not the cause. The cause may in part be the excitation of a nerve responsible for sensation in the face.

    “It’s called the trigeminal nerve,” explains Larry Newman, MD, director of the Headache Institute at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center in New York City.

    When the trigeminal nerve is stimulated, it causes the release of a variety of neurotransmitters . These in turn cause the blood vessels that surround the brain to expand and inflame.

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    “Those blood vessels are attached to nerve fibers which transmit the pulsations from the blood vessels back into the brain, where you then perceive it as pain,” says Dr. Newman.

    Although some people experience a pre-attack aura, a typical migraine occurs in two steps.

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