Could Your Headache Be a Migraine?
Most people get headaches now and then, but how do you know if it's a migraine? This is a headache in which blood vessels constrict and dilate, releasing inflammatory substances that cause painful pulsations. The mild to severe pain can last from four hours up to a week, two to four times a month. Your headache may be a migraine if you have any combination of these symptoms:
- Moderate to severe pain (often described as pounding, throbbing pain) that can affect the whole head, or can shift from one side of the head to the other
- Sensitivity to light, noise or odors
- Blurred vision
- Nausea or vomiting, upset stomach, abdominal pain
- Loss of appetite
- Sensations of being very warm or cold
- Fever (rare)
- Bright flashing dots or lights, blind spots, wavy or jagged lines (aura)
If you think you might be a migraine sufferer, see a doctor for your treatment options.
Questions to Ask Your Doctor
- Can migraines be prevented?
- What medications treat migraines?
- What pain relievers can cause rebound headaches?
- What foods trigger headaches?
Did You Know?
- Botox may prevent and treat migraines.
- Certain foods, like aged cheese and red wine, can trigger headaches.
- An aura is a sign that a migraine is about to begin; this includes blurred or distorted vision, blind spots or bright colored, flashing or moving lights or lines in vision.
- A cluster headache is an intense headache that occurs one to three times per day, which may last two weeks to three months.
- A rebound headache is one that occurs from over-using medications for headache pain.
- Tension headaches are the most common type of adult headache; thought to be caused by tightened muscles in the back of the neck and scalp.
Know Your Numbers
- According to the ICD-10 (International Statistical Classification and Related Health Problems, a medical classification list by the World Health Organization [WHO]), there are about 87 diagnostic headache categories.
- People spend $4 billion a year on over-the-counter pain relievers for headaches.
- 45 million Americans suffer chronic headaches.
- 28 million Americans have migraines each year.
- 70% of migraine sufferers are women. .
- 78% of headaches are the tension type.
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Medically reviewed by John A. Daller, MD; American Board of Surgery with subspecialty certification in surgical critical care June 22, 2017
Originally published by WebMD Magazine September/October 2005.