We have all experienced the pain of a simple headache before, and we know to take some medicine and wait for the pain to go away, but unfortunately for an unlucky few, they have the unpleasant and frequent painful experience of going through a migraine headache.
In this article, we will talk about how to identify true migraine headaches, strategies to prevent them and what to do if you have never been diagnosed but think you may be suffering from them.
The difference between a simple headache and a migraine headache
Unlike a simple headache, a migraine headache can have symptoms before the pain even starts. One symptom is something physicians call the migraine aura. This can present as changes in vision (seeing bright lines or shapes), hearing (loud ringing or music) or even feelings like burning, numbness and tingling.
The pain of the migraine headache typically is limited to only one side of the head — left or right — and usually described as a “throbbing” or “pulsing.” As it gets worse, you may experience other symptoms like nausea, vomiting and pain from bright lights and loud noises.
After the pain goes away, either on its own or with pain relievers, the last phase is what doctors call the migraine postdrome (or syndrome post-migraine), in which sudden head movements can cause the pain to return. You may also feel exhausted or drained, as this whole experience can last anywhere from four to 72 hours, another significant difference from the short, simple headache.
What to do to prevent migraine headaches
So, now we know what migraine headaches feel like, but what about getting ahead of it and trying to prevent them? Researchers have identified the most common triggers for migraine headaches, which are listed below:
- Most common: Emotional stress, hormones, not eating, weather, sleep disturbances
- Less common: Odors, neck pain, lights, alcohol, smoke, sleeping late, heat
- Least common: Food, exercise, sexual activity
With this information, we can now identify what triggers correspond to our migraine headaches and apply effective measures to reasonably avoid them. For example, if you notice that your headaches happen around the weekends when you have had too much to drink, it may be useful to see if they occur less frequently when you lower your alcohol consumption.
What to do if you think you may be suffering from migraine headaches
If you are frequently experiencing the symptoms above and/or over-the-counter medications are not working, it is time to see a doctor. Only they can accurately diagnose if you are truly experiencing a migraine headache.
In the case where over-the-counter medications are not working, a physician can also prescribe different medications that are targeted toward patients with more severe migraine headaches.
A physician will also do a full diagnostic evaluation, so if the migraine headache is actually a symptom of something worse or even just different, they can obtain the proper diagnosis and treatment.
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