Migraine - It's not just a headache

Migraine - It's not just a headache

You are pretty familiar with the throbbing ache in your temples. It's just another headache, right? Not so fast. When we hear the term migraine, we often think of a severe headache. However, headaches are only one symptom of migraines; they can range in severity and length.

The term headache disorder encompasses various nervous system conditions that cause painful symptoms in the head. For example, headache disorders include headaches and migraine. Every individual experiences a headache at one point in his life. However, according to the World Health Organization (WHO), headache disorders affect 50 % of adults worldwide.

Some people may have trouble differentiating between migraines, chronic conditions, and everyday headaches.

Headache VS Migraine

Migraines and headaches are nervous system conditions that can cause pain in the head.

Headaches cause head, face, or upper neck pain and may vary in intensity and frequency.

A migraine is a severe primary form of headache disorder.

Migraines usually cause symptoms that are far more intense and draining than headaches.

However, some types of migraines do not cause head pain.

What is a Migraine?

Migraine is a neurological disorder that involves nerve pathways and chemicals. It is a multiplex neurological disorder that produces symptoms beyond a headache. A migraine episode is likely to impact the entire nervous system. Therefore, you may experience symptoms in various parts of your body. A person might think these widespread symptoms are unrelated, but migraine could be the underlying cause. There are now effective medications available for migraine. You can get Sumatriptan online and other migraine relief medicines so that you can quickly use it in case of a migraine attack.

A migraine headache typically jolts one side of the head, but some people experience pain on both sides. The changes that disrupt brain activity affect blood in the brain and surrounding tissues, causing various symptoms. Headache is just one symptom of migraine and may differ in intensity. Migraine may cause intense, throbbing headaches that last anywhere from a few hours to several days.

Symptoms of Migraine

In addition to intense head pain, migraine sufferers may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Imbalance
  • Difficulty finding words
  • Ear and sinus pressure
  • Sleeping poorly
  • Feeling anxious
  • Nausea
  • Increased sensitivity to light, sound, or smells
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme fatigue

Phases of Migraine

Migraine episodes progress through several phases, each with characteristic symptoms varying in severity and duration. Not everyone experiences all 4 phases, and each person's attack can vary from one to the next. The phases include:

Prodrome Phase

Sometimes called the pre-headache or premonitory phase, this stage features painless symptoms that may occur days or hours before the migraine hits. The symptoms include mood swings, food cravings and stiffness of the neck. Premonitory phase symptoms may consist of:

  • Food cravings
  • Unexplainable mood changes
  • Frequent yawning
  • Stiffness of the neck
  • Constipation or diarrhoea
  • Sensitivity to light, sound, or smells

Aura phase

Auras refer to a sensory disturbance that occurs before or during a migraine. Auras may impact a person's vision, touch or speech, though not everyone who suffers from migraines experiences auras. Common auras are the illusion of vision changes, an unpleasant phantom smell, confused thinking, blind spots that expand over time, blurred visions, numbness in the arm, and slurred or jumbled speech.

Visual auras may begin with the following symptoms in one or both eyes:

  • Flashing lights
  • Blurred vision
  • Blind spots that expand over time
  • Zigzag lines

Sensory auras may lead to tingling or numbness that begins in the arm and spreads to the face.

Motor auras typically affect your communication skills and ability to think clearly. Motor auras are:

  • Difficulty writing words or sentences
  • Having trouble thinking clearly
  • Difficulty understanding what others say
  • Slurred or jumbled speech
  • Having trouble thinking clearly

People often explain an aura where they experience numbness that begins in an extremity and moves centrally. The most common is the visual auras. The classic visual aura is a sparkling scotoma, a small central area of temporary blindness followed by brightly coloured, shimmering light.

Remembering that an aura does not have to occur with every headache is helpful. About 5% of people with aura never experience a headache. The most common of the painless migraine episodes is an ocular or ophthalmic migraine. Unfortunately, people often confuse it with a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or stroke.

Headache phase

The headache phase is when the pain usually hits and may range from mild to debilitating. Migraine headaches can go from mild to severe. People with severe migraine headaches may require emergency medical treatment. Exposure to light, sound, smells and physical activity may aggravate the pain. However, some people may have a migraine without a headache.

Postdrome phase

It is the final phase when the pain subsides. People may feel confused, exhausted, or generally unwell during this postdrome phase.

Causes of Migraine

Headaches usually have easily identifiable causes; migraines have common triggers and not one cause. However, someone who suffers from migraines may find that certain factors trigger the onset. Triggers vary from person to person and may consist of:

Gender and hormonal shifts

Women are three times more vulnerable to suffering from migraines than men. Menstrual cycles and hormone changes are factors in migraine episodes in women.


Allergies, also called allergic rhinitis, cause inflammation and irritation in the body. Migraine is associated with inflammation of the blood vessels, so allergies are a common trigger for some.

Family history and genetics

People with parents or siblings suffering from migraines are more likely to develop migraines themselves. In addition, scientists have discovered a genetic mutation common in people with a typical migraine.

Environmental Factors

Environmental factors include a wide range of triggers, like changes in weather, stress, food, smells and lack of sleep.

Risk factors for migraine

Doctors and researchers have singled out various factors associated with higher risks of migraines. These may include:

  • Being female
  • Sleep disorders
  • Mood disorders, such as depression, anxiety, or bipolar disorders
  • A family history of migraines


People with migraines or other headaches might notice that certain things trigger their symptoms. Triggers vary from person to person, including anything from environmental changes to certain foods. Migraine triggers may involve:

  • Hormonal changes
  • Stress
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Lack of sleep
  • Hunger
  • Alcohol consumption

Treatment of Migraine

There is no cure for migraine or headaches. However, people may use medication and adopt lifestyle changes to treat their symptoms and help prevent future migraine episodes.

Over-the-counter medications

People may treat tension headaches and mild migraine with over-the-counter (OTC) medications. These medications are:

  • Pain relievers 

Painkillers may include acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs), such as aspirin and ibuprofen.

  • Melatonin

Melatonin may prevent migraine and cluster headaches. However, the dosage varies according to the intensity. Therefore, you should talk to a doctor about taking melatonin.

Prescription medications

Moderate to severe migraine attacks may not respond well to OTC medications. In such cases, people may need prescription medications, like:

  • Triptans, like almotriptan (Axert) or Sumatriptan/naproxen (Treximet)
  • Ergot alkaloids, such as ergotamine (Ergomar)
  • Antinausea medications, such as beta-blockers

People may also use prescription medication to prevent future migraines. Examples of these medications include:

  • Antidepressants
  • Botulinum toxin A (Botox) injections
  • Antiseizure drugs, like topiramate (Topamax) or valproate (Depacon)

People who take an OTC or prescription medication should follow the dose a doctor or pharmacist prescribes. Overdose of medication may cause a condition called a medication-overuse headache.

Medication-overuse headache occurs when you overdose on medication to overcome a primary headache. As a result, either you develop a new type of headache or experience worse symptoms of preexisting headache.

Lifestyle Changes

Adopting lifestyle changes may help prevent some types of headaches and migraines. These include:

  • Exercising regularly
  • Making dietary changes to avoid trigger foods
  • Improving sleeping habits
  • Practising relaxation techniques like yoga, mindful breathing, and meditation
  • Learning stress management techniques
  • Keeping a migraine or headache journal may help you to track patterns and identify triggers.

Note the day and time your headache or migraine begins, the surroundings and activity before symptoms start, and how long the pain lasts. This information may help you and your physician create a health regime to avoid the triggers and limit the frequency of your migraines or headaches.


People can treat tension headaches and mild migraines with over-the-counter (OTC) medications and prescription medications. In addition, adopting lifestyle changes may help prevent certain types of headaches and migraines.

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