If you are affected by unexpected, severe, and long-lasting headaches that upend your life, you may be suffering from migraines. Many treatments exist, but the best way to find one that eventually works is to know as much as you can about migraine headaches.
What is a Migraine?
A migraine is a type of headache that can trigger a pulsing sensation or severe throbbing pain, generally on one side of your head. It’s often paired with nausea, vomiting, and high sensitivity to sound and light. If you suffer from a migraine attack, the experience could last for hours or even days – and be so extreme that it restricts daily life and your interactions with others and the world around you.
Know the Symptoms
- Prodrome, beginning up to 24 hours beforehand. Symptoms include food cravings, mood swings, yawning, fluid retention, and frequent urination.
- Aura. In this phase, you could experience flashing or bright lights or zig-zag lines, as well as general muscle weakness. An aura can occur just before or as a migraine happens.
- A migraine normally begins gradually with a headache before it becomes more severe.
- Postdrome, for up to a day after the headache, you experience exhaustion, weakness, and confusion.
Migraine Terms & Definitions
- Abdominal migraine is more widespread in kids and adolescents, often associated with cyclic vomiting.
- Acute headaches happen suddenly at first, with symptoms that fade after a comparatively short time; they are often due to an illness, contagion, cold, or fever.
- Ataxia means you have problems using your muscles. It triggers a lack of coordination, and you may have trouble walking. It’s usually paired with a headache called “migraine with brainstem aura.”
- Allodynia describes pain from something that normally wouldn’t cause discomfort. This could be pain while brushing your teeth or resting your face on a pillow. Allodynia can happen in someone with a migraine and is more widespread in people experiencing migraines 10+ days per month.
- Chronic Migraine is when someone has a headache with migraine-like characteristics at least 15 days a month, for longer than three months. About 85 percent of those with this kind are women.
- Cutaneous allodynia describes skin that is painful to the touch. You could experience pain when putting in contact lenses, shaving, or brushing your hair during a migraine.
- Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome is a rare disorder affecting children and adults. People with it have recurring episodes of extreme nausea and vomiting that can persist for a few hours to days or longer, followed by a time when they feel fine or experience much milder symptoms before everything starts over again. You can also experience dizziness, low energy, pale skin, stomach pain, and headaches.
- Episodic Migraine refers to people who have migraines and up to 14 headache days each month. If you experience more, then you are likely experiencing chronic migraine.
- An uncommon subtype of migraine with aura is called a Hemiplegic Migraine. It results in weakness on one side of your body that might change sides between or as an attack happens. Other symptoms characteristic of aura, like visual changes, numbness, tingling, and lethargy, may also occur. The attacks normally include a headache.
- If you’ve ever been affected by double vision, meaning that you visualize two of everything, you’ve had what’s called diplopia, a kind of visual aura.
- Dysphasia. This kind of aura triggers problems with language skills. It might be challenging to remember a word, speak at all, or understand others.
Other terms and definitions can be found online. Certain symptoms can be treated with ketamine therapy.
Diagnosis & Treatment
To offer a diagnosis, your medical professional will:
- Record your medical history, asking about personal and family medical or mental health issues which may trigger pain.
- Ask about your symptoms – how often they happen, possible triggers, and duration.
- Complete a neurological and physical examination.
One part of diagnosing migraines is looking for and ruling out other medical circumstances that could trigger your symptoms. This means you can also expect blood tests, magnetic resonance imaging, and other scans or tests.
Pain relievers and a dark, quiet room may help, but symptoms can sometimes be treated with ketamine.
Millions of people get migraines. Like other conditions, it’s a veritable soup mix of terms and definitions and phrases you’ve likely never heard of and may never remember. But knowing about your condition – causes and possible triggers – will help you decide how to relieve the symptoms.