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  1. related stories
  2. Migraine | MedlinePlus
  3. Everything you need to know about migraines
  4. More than “just a headache”
  5. Stages of Migraine

Most researchers think that migraine is due to abnormal changes in levels of substances that are naturally produced in the brain. When the levels of these substances increase, they can cause inflammation. This inflammation then causes blood vessels in the brain to swell and press on nearby nerves, causing pain. Genes also have been linked to migraine. People who get migraines may have abnormal genes that control the functions of certain brain cells.

Experts do know that people with migraines react to a variety of factors and events, called triggers.

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These triggers can vary from person to person and don't always lead to migraine. A combination of triggers — not a single thing or event — is more likely to set off an attack. A person's response to triggers also can vary from migraine to migraine. Many women with migraine tend to have attacks triggered by:. To pinpoint your migraine triggers, keep a headache diary.

Each day you have a migraine headache, put that in your diary. Also write down the:. Talk with your doctor about what sets off your headaches to help find the right treatment for you. Yes, there are many forms of migraine. The two forms seen most often are migraine with aura and migraine without aura.

Migraine with aura previously called classical migraine. With a migraine with aura, a person might have these sensory symptoms the so-called "aura" 10 to 30 minutes before an attack:. Only one in five people who get migraine experience an aura. Women have this form of migraine less often than men. Migraine without aura previously called common migraine. With this form of migraine, a person does not have an aura but has all the other features of an attack.

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.

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.

Migraine | MedlinePlus

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.

Many people confuse a sinus headache with a migraine because pain and pressure in the sinuses, nasal congestion, and watery eyes often occur with migraine. To find out if your headache is sinus or migraine, ask yourself these questions:. A true sinus headache is rare and usually occurs due to sinus infection. In a sinus infection, you would also likely have a fever and thick nasal secretions that are yellow, green, or blood-tinged.

A sinus headache should go away with treatment of the sinus infection. Sometimes, headache can signal a more serious problem. You should talk to your doctor about your headaches if:. If you think you get migraine headaches, talk with your doctor. Before your appointment, write down:. Your doctor may also do an exam and ask more questions about your health history. This could include past head injury and sinus or dental problems. Your doctor may be able to diagnose migraine just from the information you provide. You may get a blood test or other tests, such as CT scan or MRI, if your doctor thinks that something else is causing your headaches.

Work with your doctor to decide on the best tests for you. Migraines are most common in women between the ages of 20 and 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.

Everything you need to know about migraines

All these factors make it hard for a woman to fulfill her roles at work and at home when migraine strikes. More than half of migraines in women occur right before, during, or after a woman has her period. This often is called "menstrual migraine. 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. As you get older, the nausea and vomiting may decrease as well. About two-thirds of women with migraines report that their symptoms improve with menopause.

But for some women, menopause worsens migraine or triggers them to start. It is not clear why this happens. Menopausal hormone therapy , which is prescribed for some women during menopause, may be linked to migraines during this time. In general, though, the worsening of migraine symptoms goes away once menopause is complete. The pills may help reduce the number of attacks and their attacks may become less severe.

But in other women, the pills may worsen their migraines. In still other women, taking birth control pills has no effect on their migraines. The reason for these different responses is not well understood.

What is a migraine headache?

For women whose migraines get worse when they take birth control pills, their attacks seem to occur during the last week of the cycle. This is because the last seven pills in most monthly pill packs don't have hormones; they are there to keep you in the habit of taking your birth control daily. Without the hormones, your body's estrogen levels drop sharply.

This may trigger migraine in some women. Talk with your doctor if you think birth control pills are making your migraines worse. Switching to a pill pack in which all the pills for the entire month contain hormones and using that for three months in a row can improve headaches. Lifestyle changes, such as getting on a regular sleep pattern and eating healthy foods, can help too. Stress can trigger both migraine and tension-type headache.

Events like getting married, moving to a new home, or having a baby can cause stress. They usually begin in early adulthood. Some people have migraines frequently, up to several times a week. Other people only have a migraine occasionally. Try not to use the maximum dosage of painkillers on a regular or frequent basis as this could make it harder to treat headaches over time.

You should also make an appointment to see a GP if you have frequent migraines on more than 5 days a month , even if they can be controlled with medicines, as you may benefit from preventative treatment. These symptoms may be a sign of a more serious condition, such as a stroke or meningitis , and should be assessed by a doctor as soon as possible. Around half of all people who experience migraines also have a close relative with the condition, suggesting that genes may play a role.

If you suspect a specific trigger is causing your migraines, such as stress or a certain type of food, avoiding this trigger may help reduce your risk of experiencing migraines. It may also help to maintain a generally healthy lifestyle, including regular exercise, sleep and meals, as well as ensuring you stay well hydrated and limiting your intake of caffeine and alcohol.

For mild to moderate migraines, over-the-counter medicines that may help relieve migraine pain include:. A medicine called ergotamine can be effective alone or combined with other medicines. Dihydroergotamine is related to ergotamine and can be helpful. Other prescription medicines for migraines include sumatriptan, zolmitriptan, naratriptan, rizatriptan, almotriptan, eletriptan, and frovatriptan. These medicines can be habit-forming and should be used cautiously. Your doctor may prescribe these only if they are needed and only for a short period of time.

Migraines can come on quickly, many times without warning. They can ruin your day—or even several days at a time.

More than “just a headache”

They can make you miss work, miss important events, miss out on fun. Work with your doctor to take back control. Document when you get migraines and what you were doing and eating. Keep a record of what the weather was like and if you were exposed to unusual smells or environments.

Knowing your triggers can help you prevent migraines.

You doctor also may prescribe different medicines or combinations of medicines. Doing this helps sort out which will be most effective for preventing migraines or stopping them when they start. American Council for Headache Education. Migraine Research Foundation. Last Updated: October 17, This article was contributed by: familydoctor.

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject. Learn about the different types and causes of headaches, as well as how to detect, treat, and prevent headaches. Botulinum toxin is a protein that helps stop muscle spasms when it is injected directly into the muscle. Headaches are common in teens.

Stages of Migraine

Most are minor and can be easily treated. However, some can be a sign…. Visit The Symptom Checker. Read More. Food Poisoning. Acute Bronchitis. Eustachian Tube Dysfunction.

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What is a migraine headache? What does a migraine feel like? What causes migraines? What are some migraine risk factors and triggers?