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
  • Paleness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • 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

  • There are 150 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.

For more, please read the Migraine Headache and General Headache articles.


WebMD the Magazine - September/October 2005
© 2005 WebMD Inc. All rights reserved.


Last Editorial Review: 10/31/2005



© 2005-2014 WebMD, LLC. All rights reserved.


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