What Are Migraines?


If you have never experienced a migraine, then consider yourself mighty lucky! Sometimes people are unsure whether they are experiencing a migraine or just a really bad tension headache, but once you learn to recognize the symptoms, there is no mistaking them. These headaches are intense to the point they can be downright debilitating.


What Are Migraine Headaches

The pain level of a migraine can range from moderate to severe, usually on one side of the head, but can occasionally occur on both. It is not uncommon for the discomfort to be so great that it requires a visit to the emergency room. Some patients may suffer for days with no relief from standard painkillers. Some symptoms one may experience are:

  • Sensitivity to light
  • Sensitivity to sound
  • Sensitivity to strong smells and odors, such as perfumes or colognes
  • Moderate to severe pain in the temple region
  • Temporary loss of vision or blackouts
  • Aura which may come in the form of flashing lights, spots, jagged lines that may move and curve, or flickering
  • Nausea which can be severe enough to induce vomiting
  • Sudden change in mood, such as depression, anxiety, excitement or irritability
  • Inability to fall sleep or sleep peacefully
  • Sinus problems, including stuffy nose, watery eyes and puffy eyelids
  • Pain in eye area, often mistaken for vision problems
  • Neck pain may be present in the early stages of an oncoming migraine
  • Yawning can indicate an impending attack
  • Numbness or tingling on one side of the body that can sometimes resemble a stroke
  • Speech difficulties
  • Vertigo, dizziness and double vision


Types of Migraines

Many people are unaware that there are different types of migraines, but there are actually quite a few. Narrowing down which type you suffer from will help you physician come up with the proper treatment for your attacks. Which type are you?

  • The Common Migraine, or Migraine without Aura, is probably the most common among all migraine sufferers. As the name suggests, you will not have the feeling of aura and symptoms will come on without any warning. These are usually felt only on one side of the head and may worsen with standard medications.
  • The Classic Migraine, or Migraine with Aura, is the second most common type of migraine. These will give the patient warning signals up to an hour before the actual headache strikes. These are usually visual disturbances, but can also include tingling, numbness and muscle weakness.


While these are the most common other types of migraines include:

  • Migraine without Headache
  • Migraine with Brainstem Aura
  • Hemiplegic Migraine
  • Retinal Migraine
  • Chronic Migraine



What Causes a Migraine?


The exact cause of these attacks has yet to be discovered, but medical studies show there is an apparent link to genetics and environmental factors. It is thought that changes in the brain stem and the way it reacts to surrounding nerves could be the root of the pain. Researchers also believe serotonin could some way be involved, due to level changes during a migraine. While the direct cause is uncertain, there are some reported triggers suffers should be aware of:

  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes in women
  • Certain foods, such as salty snacks and aged cheeses
  • Certain foods, including those high in caffeine or alcohol
  • Changes in the environment
  • Medications
  • Reactions to stimuli, such as bright lights and strong perfumes
  • Back Pain