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Migraine Headache in Children (cont.)

Migraine Headache in Children Causes and Symptoms

The exact cause(s) of migraine headaches is unknown. Some migraines are thought to be due a temporary deficiency of the brain chemical serotonin. Many of the drugs effective in treating migraines target this chemical. Some migraineurs know that their headaches are triggered by something they eat, drink, or a particular activity.

The most common triggers include:

Migraines most likely have several trigger factors and multiple internal causes. Although many migraine disorders do not develop until middle age, early recognition of migraine risk factors may help a child adopt a healthy lifestyle.

Migraine Headache in Children Symptoms

A headache may be a symptom of a benign (relatively harmless) condition, or it may be a life-threatening symptom. The patient's medical history and physical examination results are often enough to identify or rule out serious underlying problems or conditions. Testing (laboratory or imaging) is employed to support a suspected diagnosis.

No specific laboratory or radiological test establishes the diagnosis of migraine headache. Doctors make the diagnosis through medical history, physical examination with emphasis on the neurological components, and clinical judgment. When considering a diagnosis of migraine headache, the doctor will ask about a child's medical history, previous tests, allergies, and current and previous medications.

  • Children will be asked to describe how the headache feels (for example, throbbing, pounding, squeezing, pressing, pulsating, aching, burning, stabbing, dull).
  • They will also be asked about the headache's location, timing, severity, causal events (for example, concussion, falling down), duration, and whether any relatives have migraine headaches.
  • Other common historical evidence to support the diagnosis of migraine headache includes sensitivity to light and sound, tenderness in the scalp (usually where the pain is most severe) and a strong desire to lie down and sleep.

Conditions that cause severe headaches in children include both primary and secondary disorders.

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/12/2016

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