Migraine + Headache
Migraine + Headache
A headache is a broad medical term referring to the sensation of pain in a specific area of your head. A migraine is a specific type of headache that can cause severe, throbbing pain as well as other symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensibility to light and sound.
Around 45 million Americans are affected by headaches every year. Some types of headaches are more likely to affect female identifying patients. These include migraines and tension headaches. Migraines tend to begin in adolescence and peak during your 30s and begin declining after that.
Risk factors can vary depending on the type of headache you have. Primary headaches and secondary headaches are the two main categories of headaches there is. Primary headaches are not symptoms of an underlying disease, and triggers for them can be:
- Genetics/family history (some people are genetically more likely to have headaches).
- Poor posture
- Certain foods (including processed meats)
- Sleep deprivation
- Skipped meals
- Certain medications
Secondary headaches cab be a symptom of an underlying disease. They can be caused by many different diseases, such as:
- Sinus infections
- Arterial tears
- Blood clots
- Brain aneurysms
- Brain tumors
- Dental and jaw problems
- Ear infections
- Brain inflammation
- High blood pressure
- Panic attacks
There are few risk factors or “triggers” specific to migraines:
- Hormonal changes in women (such as before or during your period, pregnancy, and menopause. Hormone-based medications such as birth control can also contribute)
- Bright lights, sun glare, strong smells, and loud sounds
- Intense physical exertion (such as exercise and sex)
- Weather changes
- Certain foods and additives (such as aged cheeses, salty foods, MSG, and the sweetener aspartame)
Although all headaches result in head pain, certain symptoms and locations of pain vary depending on the type of headache. The following are examples of common primary headaches and their symptoms:
- Cluster headaches: Intense pain usually in or around one eye or on one side of your head. These can wake you up in the middle of the night, and the headache “clusters” (a series of headaches) can last from weeks to months. You might also experience restlessness, eye redness, stuffy or runny nose, facial sweating, pale skin, flushing, swelling around your eye, and/or a drooping eyelid during the headache.
- Migraine: Migraines are commonly felt as a severe throbbing or pulsing pain on one side of the head, and sometimes both sides. Some people experience certain symptoms before the migraine begins, including mood changes, constipation, food cravings, neck stiffness, thirst, increased urination, and frequent yawning. Some people may also experience an aura, which is usually the visual phenomena of seeing bright spots, flashes of lights black spots, or different shapes. During the migraine, you can feel intense pain, sensitivity to light, sound, smell, and touch, and/or nausea and vomiting.
- Tension headache: Tension headaches are often milder but cause a dull throbbing pain that might be described as a “tight band” around your head. It might be accompanied by the sensation of pressure in your head and/or a sensitive scalp, neck, and shoulder muscles.
Examples of secondary headaches and their symptoms are:
- Sinus headaches: These often feel like a sinus infection, accompanied by pressure around your eyes, cheeks, and forehead. The Pain can get worse if you bend forward or lie down, and you might also have a stuffy nose, an ache in your upper teeth, and/or fatigue.
- Thunderclap headaches: These are often sudden, intense short periods of pain. You can also have symptoms like nausea, vomiting, fever, seizures, and an altered
- Spinal headaches: The symptoms can include a dull, throbbing pain that can go between mild and intense. The pain can get worse when you sit up or stand, dizziness, ringing in your ears, hearing loss, blurred or double vision, sensitivity to light, nausea, vomiting, neck pain or stiffness, and/or seizures.
- mental state.
- Primary Care Doctor: Your general doctor can diagnose and treat headaches. Although headaches can be caused by a wide variety of factors, they could end up referring you to a neurologist if they are concerned about any underlying health condition or complications.
- Neurologists: Neurologists specialize in conditions that affect the brain, spinal cord, and nerves. They will help identify exactly what type of headache you are experiencing and what, if anything, might be the underlying cause.
Headaches can often be diagnosed depending on your symptoms by your primary care physician. Although headaches are a very common symptom that can be caused by such a wide variety of factors, your doctor could also perform additional testing such as a blood test, skull X-rays, sinus X-rays, an MRI, or a CT scan.
Over the counter pain relievers can treat most headaches, these medications include:
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
- Acetaminophen + Caffeine (Excedrin)
- Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin)
- Naproxen (Aleve)
If you don’t feel any relief, speak with your doctor about prescription options.
Migraines can typically be prevented and treated by the following types of prescription medications:
- Triptans: sumatriptan (Imitrex, Tosymra) or rizatriptan (Maxalt)
- Preventative migraine medications: propranolol (Inderal, topiramate (Topamax), or Amitriptyline.
- Anti-nausea drugs to help with symptoms:chlorpromazine, metoclopramide (Reglan), and prochlorperazine (Compro)
Not all generic medication is the same. Certain people respond better to different versions of the same drug, depending on the manufacturer. You can search our website to find the best fit for you.
A healthy lifestyle can help prevent and manage migraines and headaches. When you feel a migraine starting, try to close your eyes and lie down in a quiet, dark room with a cool cloth on your forehead. Try avoiding triggers such as stress, sensory stimuli (like bright lights, loud sounds, and certain scents), and changes in sleep patterns.
Begin by establishing a consistent sleep and eating schedule, stay hydrated, reduce stress, and exercise regularly. Maintaining good posture can also help ease headache pain.