According to The National Headache Foundation, almost 28 million Americans suffer from headaches. More women than men get migraines and a quarter of all women with migraines suffer four or more attacks a month. But how can you tell the difference between a headache and a migraine? Simply assess your symptoms, the type and location of your pain, and how your headache reacts when treated.
If your headache is only distracting, it’s most likely a tension headache. But if you start to feel debilitating and intense pounding or throbbing, you might be having a migraine headache. Another distinguishing factor of migraine headaches is that unlike other headaches, they tend to result in pain on only one side of the head.
Migraine headaches symptoms can occur in different combinations but usually include:
- Sensitivity to light, noise and odors;
- Stomach upset and abdominal pain including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and loss of appetite;
- Blurred or tunnel vision;
- Sensations of being very warm or cold.
Most migraines last about four hours, although severe migraine headaches can last up to a week. Migraine frequency varies depending on the person. Migraine sufferers commonly get two to four headaches per month, but some people may get headaches every few days, and others only once or twice a year.The exact causes of migraines are unknown, although studies have shown that they are related to changes in the as well as to genetic causes. People with migraines can also inherit the tendency to be affected by certain triggers like fatigue, bright lights, weather or hormonal changes.
Unfortunately there is no cure for migraines, but most patients who have migraines find that their symptoms can be managed with pain releasing drugs, preventative medications and lifestyle changes.
Pain releasing medications consist of common over-the-counter remedies—NASIDs, ibuprofen, acetaminophen and aspirin—as well as prescription oral and nasal medications. These types of quick working medications are especially useful for people who have nausea or vomiting with their migraines.
Preventive medications are taken daily to keep migraines from happening in the first place. This type of treatment is considered if migraines occur frequently or if symptoms are severe. Prescription preventive treatment medications include beta-blockers, antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs and Botox.
Lifestyle changes can also reduce migraines. An important step is identifying and avoiding triggers that lead to migraines in the first place—such as drinking red wine, getting too little sleep or repeated exposure to noisy environments. Although many migraine patients avoid doing exercise since physical exertion can be a trigger, stress-reducing exercises such as tai chi and yoga have been shown to be effective in managing migraines. Some sufferers also find that simple muscle relaxation techniques combined with applying a cold compress or gel pad to the forehead can help provide relief during a migraine attack.
Do you think you might be suffering from migraine headaches? Call Dr. Schumacher’s office at 614-299-9909 to discuss diagnosis, treatment and migraine relief options.