What Is a Migraine Headache?
Learn what causes migraines and migraine symptoms and how to get rid of the pain.
Facts You Should Know About Migraines
- Migraine headaches are one of the most common problems seen in emergency departments and doctors' offices. They occur due to changes in the brain and surrounding blood vessels.
- Seek treatment if you notice a change in migraine frequency, severity, or features from what you usually experience.
- Migraine treatments include home remedies, over-the-counter (OTC) drugs, and presecription medications to prevent or relieve migraine pain.
Migraines are not the same as a "regular" headaches, tension, sinus, or cluster headaches. All of these types of headaches cause pain, but a migraine has additional warning symptoms and signs, such as:
- Feeling irritable
- Depressed or “high”
- Visual disturbances ("auras")
- Nausea and vomiting
- Sensitivity to light
- Migraine pain usually unilateral, meaning that it occurs on only one side of the head.
Migraine causes are not fully known, but may be due to the expansion of blood vessels in the brain along with the release of certain chemicals.
Migraine headaches typically last from 4 to 72 hours and vary in frequency from daily to less than one a year.
There are several types of migraine headaches, and they vary in severity of pain and the time it takes for the migraine to go away. Migraine types include:
Common migraine, also called absence migraine, accounts for 80% of migraines. There is no "aura" before a common migraine.
People with classic migraine headache
(also called migraine with aura) experience an aura before their headaches. Most often, an aura is a visual disturbance (outlines of lights or jagged light images). Classic migraines are usually much more severe than common migraines.
Silent or acephalgic migraine headache is a migraine without head pain, but with aura and other visual disturbances, nausea, and other aspects of migraine.
A hemiplegic migraine
can feel like a stroke
, with weakness on one side of the body, loss of sensation, or feeling "pins and needles"; however head pain may not be severe.
A retinal migraine occurs when a migraine headache causes temporary vision loss in one eye. The vision loss can last from minutes to months, but it is usually reversible. It is often a sign of a more serious medical problem, and patients should seek medical care.
A chronic migraine
is a migraine headache that lasts for more than 15 days per month.
Status migrainosus is a migraine attack that lasts more than 72 hours.How Many People Have Migraines?
According to the National Headache Foundation, more than 37 million Americans suffer from migraine headaches, and it affects three times as many women as men. About 70% to 80% of people with migraines (called migraineurs) have other members in the family who have them too.
People with classic migraines experience an aura before their headaches. Most often, an aura is a visual disturbance (outlines of lights or jagged light images). Classic migraines are usually much more severe than common migraines.
What Is the Best Thing to Do for a Migraine?
Home remedies to relieve head pain and other migraine symptoms include lying down and resting in a room with pillows supporting the head and neck, and that has little to no sensory stimulation from light, sound, colors, and odors. Over-the-counter (OTC) drugs such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), or a combination of medicaitons and prescription drugs can treat migraines.