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How To Tell If You Have Migraines

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Who Gets Migraines What Are The Risk Factors

How to tell if your headache is actually a migraine

Its difficult to predict who may get a migraine and who may not, but there are risk factors that may make you more vulnerable. These risk factors include:

  • Genetics: Up to 80% of people who get migraine headaches have a first-degree relative with the disease.
  • Gender. Migraine headaches happen to women more than men, especially women between the ages of 15 and 55. Its likely more common in women because of the influence of hormones.
  • Stress level. You may get migraines more often if youre high-stress. Stress can trigger a migraine.

Coping With An Aura At Work

Unfortunately, many people with migraine do not get the support or empathetic ears they need from employers when having a migraine attack. That’s especially true for those who hide the fact that they get frequent migraine attacks.

However, there are coping strategies that can help you in your work environment:

  • Be open with your employer about your migraine attacks, starting with how you
  • Know your rights, as well as your employer’s sick and paid time off policies
  • Learn how to manage work-related stress
  • Keep a log of medical appointments, absences, and communication in case it’s needed
  • Request appropriate and reasonable workplace accommodations

Treatment For Pregnant And Breastfeeding Women

In general, migraine treatment with medicines should be limited as much as possible when youre pregnant or breastfeeding.

Instead, trying to identify and avoid potential migraine triggers is often recommended.

If medicine is essential, your GP may prescribe you a low-dose painkiller, such as paracetamol.

In some cases, anti-inflammatory medicine or triptans may be prescribed.

Speak to a GP or your midwife before taking medicine when youre pregnant or breastfeeding.

Page last reviewed: 10 May 2019 Next review due: 10 May 2022

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What Does A Migraine Attack Look Like

There are four distinct phases of a migraine attack: prodrome, aura, headache, postdrome. You dont have to experience all the phases. In fact, only about 20% of people with migraine have an aura. Understanding the phases can help you manage the disease better.

The prodrome and aura phases usually occur before the headache develops. Prodrome may precede the migraine attack by several hours or even days. Typical prodrome symptoms include extreme tiredness and yawning, irritability or moodiness, difficulty concentrating, and food cravings. About 75% of people with migraine experience a prodromebut often they dont recognize it as the beginning of an attack. Aura is rarer and usually begins just before the headache starts. Most people experience changes in their vision, while others notice tingling, numbness, or trouble speaking.

These symptoms can serve as a warning sign and allow you to take acute medication before the headache begins. Identifying and treating a migraine early can even help prevent further symptoms in some people.

How Do Doctors Treat Migraines

Bloem Physio

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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Treat Your Head Pain Accordingly

One of the biggest differences between headaches and migraines is that headaches will respond to over-the-counter medicines, while migraines typically will not, Cabin said.

Treatment for tension headaches and migraines can include both a holistic approach as well as prescription medicine, Hutchinson added. Things like cleaning up your diet from MSG and processed foods, taking a weekly yoga class, keeping alcohol and caffeine in check, and establishing healthy sleep habits may help, Hutchinson said.

For migraine sufferers who still cant find relief, Cabin suggested seeking care from a primary doctor or a neurologist. Depending on your condition, you may be diagnosed with chronic migraines if you suffer from 14 or more migraines a month. Treatment for that particular diagnosis can include more severe medical interventions like Botox injections in the head and surgery to help attack the trigger nerves in the brain and lessen those signals entirely.

The way I phrase it to patients is that treatment is usually a mix-and-match of options based on that patients needs. Theres no universal treatment or magic bullet, Cabin said.

Its Much More Than A Headache

People think its just a headache because thats all they know, says Lisa Jacobson, 59, who experienced frequent migraines for 25 years before going into remission 4 years ago. Shes the founder of The Daily Migraine, a website and online community with more than 300,000 followers.

Its a real illness. Its a neurological condition, says Jacobson. But you dont feel as though youre even allowed to express whats going on, as people may not take your symptoms seriously. Thats because its an invisible illness, Jacobson notes. No one can see your pain, nausea, or sensitivity to light, sound, smell, or touch.

People dont understand that this is actually a disorder of the brain, says Shirley Kessel, 56, a resident of Lafayette Hill, Pennsylvania, who is the executive director of Miles for Migraine, a nonprofit organization that organizes walking and running events to raise money for migraine research. Im married to a doctor, and even he didnt fully understand until it affected our family.

Kessel notes that among people who experience migraines, theres a wide range of symptoms and overall severity, which means that even some people who get migraines dont understand how disabling it can be for others. That, she says, helps fuel the perception that people who experience migraines are weak, unreliable, or not really sick.

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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.

Sinus Headache Vs Migraine

How To Tell If You Have a Migraine or Tension Headache?

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.

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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.

What Are The Types Of Headaches What Type Of Headache Is A Migraine

There are over 150 types of headaches, divided into two categories: primary headaches and secondary headaches. A migraine is a primary headache, meaning that it isnt caused by a different medical condition. Primary headache disorders are clinical diagnoses, meaning theres no blood test or imaging study to diagnose it. A secondary headache is a symptom of another health issue.

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Treatment For Migraine With Aura

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:

Seek Additional Help From A Specialist If Necessary

Handy Charts to Help Deal with Migraines

Its critical that a headache be properly diagnosed and treated, Hutchinson said. Some health care providers have gone for extra training and are certified in headache medicine. To find a specialist, Hutchinson recommended checking out the American Headache Society and the National Headache Foundation.

Its critical that a headache be properly diagnosed and treated.

– Susan Hutchinson, director of the Orange County Migraine & Headache Center

At the very least, speak up at your next visit to the doctor. You may think youre just experiencing an average headache, but theres a chance youre not: Research shows that 1 out of 6 Americans will suffer from migraines, with 12 percent of Americans experiencing a migraine at some point in their life. If youre a woman, your risk is even higher. Chatting with your physician about treatment options could make a huge difference.

There is an undertreatment of these headaches where people are either getting the wrong kind of treatment for a different type of headache or no treatment at all because they dont know whats available, Cabin said.

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Are Migraines Fatal

Most migraines don’t cause lasting harm.

Rarely, you can have a complication called migrainous infarction. That’s when you have a stroke while you’re having a migraine. But there’s no evidence migraine can trigger a stroke.

It’s extremely rare, but a hemiplegic migraine can sometimes lead to a coma or other serious complications.

A very intense headache that starts suddenly can be a sign of another, more serious condition, like a stroke or aneurysm. Get medical help right away if this happens.

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.

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How Are Migraines Diagnosed

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

Normal Blood Pressure Level For Female

What is it like to have a Migraine?

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What Are The Causes

Doctors are learning more about what brings on these headaches, which often run in families. Some are the result of changes in your brain chemicals. Abnormal brain activity is also involved.

Every person who has migraines has different triggers, but common ones include a lack of sleep, caffeine, and being under stress.

Most people who get chronic migraines are women. This may be because hormone changes are another well-known cause. These shifts happen around your monthly period, as well as during pregnancy and through menopause. Birth control can also play a role.

What Are The Common Symptoms Of Migraine

How can you tell if your head pain is actually migraine? The symptoms of migraine vary from person to person. But if you agree with some or many of the statements below, your head pain may be migraine and you should think about seeing a doctor.

  • Your head pain is moderate or severe and often intense. The pain may be hard to endure and may be unbearable.
  • The pain may be on one side of the head or both. It could be in the front or in the back. Some patients experience migraine in or around their eyes and behind their cheeks.
  • Your head pain causes a throbbing, pounding, or pulsating sensation.
  • Your head pain gets worse with physical activity or any movement.
  • You experience nausea and/or vomiting
  • You are sensitive to light, noise and/or smells.
  • Your head pain is severe enough to make you miss school, work or other activities .
  • A migraine attack lasts anywhere from four hours to several days.

Some people have migraine with aura. The most common type of aura is visual . Aura can also cause blurred vision or loss of vision. Typically, aura occurs before the head pain of the attack begins, and fully resolves in an hour or less.

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What Are The Treatments For Tension Headaches

If you get these headaches occasionally, you can treat them with over-the-counter drugs like:

Caffeine also may help. Many headache medicines include it as an ingredient.

If you have chronic tension-type headaches that don’t get better with OTC medications, see your doctor. Sometimes doctors prescribe antidepressants to treat these headaches. You don’t have to have depression or anxiety for these meds to help your pain.

Acupuncture and self-relaxation techniques may also help ease tension-type headaches.

Migraine Aura Can Mimic A Stroke

How To Tell If You Have A Headache Or A Migraine

Symptoms of migraine with aura can feel like other serious neurological conditions such as stroke or transient ischemic attack because some of the symptoms overlap:

  • Unilateral numbness/weakness

However, strokes tend to be rapid and sudden onset, whereas a migraine typically takes a bit of time to reach its peak. A migraine attack also has warning signs.

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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.

Can I Prevent Chronic Migraines

Taking care of yourself every day may prevent your migraines from turning into a long-term problem. For instance:

Catch some ZZZs. Not getting enough sleep can trigger a migraine. Aim for 7 to 8 hours of rest each night.

Watch your diet. While caffeine can soothe your pain, stopping it suddenly is a common cause of migraine. Other common food triggers include MSG , nitrates in cured meats like hot dogs, artificial sweeteners, and alcohol.

Manage your stress. Tension and worry are common triggers. Try to carve out a few minutes each day to do something you love, or learn to breathe deeply when youâre in the midst of a crisis. You might join a support group or talk to a counselor.

Have a meal plan. Fasting and skipping meals can trigger headaches. Try to eat around the same times each day.

Get moving. Exercise is a good way to ease your anxiety and stress. It can also help you get to, and stay at, a healthy weight. Since obesity raises your risk of chronic migraines, getting in shape is crucial.

Know your triggers. Not all migraines result from triggers. But if yours do, that set of triggers is unique to you. To learn what yours are, keep a headache diary. Each time you have an attack, write down details about what you were doing, how long the headache lasted, and how you felt before it started. This will help you begin to notice patterns — and avoid your triggers.

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