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Headaches / Migraines

A migraine is a headache that can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head.

What is a Headache?

headache 1

Headaches are a very common condition that most people will experience many times during their lives. The main symptom of a headache is a pain in your head or face. This can be throbbing, constant, sharp or dull. Headaches can be treated with medication, stress management, massage of tight muscles, injection of trigger points or sensitive scars.

What is a Migraine?

Migraine 1

A migraine is a headache that can cause severe throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, usually on one side of the head. It’s often accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine attacks can last for hours to days, and the pain can be so severe that it interferes with your daily activities.

Is it a Headache or Migraine?

Complete this short quiz to determine if the pain in your head is a headache or something more serious.

Are you seeing spots or flashes of light in front of your eyes?

Migraine attacks can cause vision problems. This is called an aura. This can manifest as spots, flashing lights, strobes and blind spots in vision. The symptoms will usually appear in both eyes.

Do you feel nauseous and sensitive to light or sound?

Migraines usually give rise to a combination of headache and nausea. This could also include dizziness and vomiting. Often, there may be a visual or sensory aura that precedes this.

Is there intense pain at the temples?

If there is a constant and intense throb in the temples, especially on just one side of your head, it is typically a symptom of migraine pain.

Do you see wavy lines at the edge of your vision? Are there sudden episodes of temporary loss of vision?

An ocular migraine can cause wavy lines or blurred edges at the edge of your vision. It can cause vision loss or blindness in one eye temporarily. It can accompany a headache or manifest after one.

Do you slur when you speak? Do you feel disoriented? Do you have difficulty in focusing or concentrating? Is there sudden weakness or fatigue? Is there tingling in your extremities?

A hemiplegic migraine can cause a temporary weakness on one side of the body. You may feel unable to move easily, speech can get slurred, there may be blurry vision and you may have confusion and disorientation and trouble concentrating. It can also cause pins and needles in extremities.

These symptoms are similar to a stroke. If you are concerned, or unsure, call 911 or your emergency telephone number immediately.

Types and Causes of Common Headaches

There are many different types of headaches, so identifying the location and nature of your pain can help determine the cause.

Some of the most common types include:

  • Tension headaches: The pain from tension headaches tends to spread across both sides of the head, often starting at the back and creeping forward. Eyestrain, stress, muscle tension, hunger are frequently causes of tension headaches, and they can be chronic.
  • Sinus headaches: These headaches often strike when you’re sick or feeling congested. They’re caused by swelling in the sinus passages, resulting in pain behind the cheeks, nose and eyes. The pain is often as its worst when you wake up on the morning and when you bend forward. This can be an allergic reaction to mold in the air.
  • Cluster headaches: These headaches are usually very painful and occur in “clusters,” meaning they happen daily (usually at the same time), sometimes up to several times per day for months. They are a result of dilation in the blood vessels of the brain due to a release of serotonin and histamines. They can be caused by physical exertion, bright lights or even altitude.

Migraines: More Than Just a Headache

The changes in brain activity affect blood in the brain and surrounding tissues, causing a range of symptoms. In addition to severe head pain, migraine sufferers may experience some or all of the following symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Increased sensitivity to light, sound or smells
  • Dizziness
  • Extreme fatigue

A migraine episode may occur in four different phases, though not everyone experiences every phase.

The phases include:

  • Prodrome phase: Sometimes called the pre-headache phase, this stage features painless symptoms that occur hours or days before the migraine arrives. These include mood swings, food cravings and stiffness of the neck.
  • Aura phase: Auras refer to sensory disturbances that occur before or during a migraine. Auras can affect a person’s vision, touch or speech, though not everyone who suffers from migraines experiences auras. Examples of auras include blurred visions, blind spots that expand over time, numbness in the arm, and slurred or jumbled speech.
  • Headache phase: This is when the pain usually hits, and it may range from mild to debilitating. Physical activity and exposure to light, sound and smells may worsen the pain. However, some people can have a migraine without developing a headache.
  • Postdromal phase: The final phase is when the pain has subsided. People may feel exhausted, confused or generally unwell during this phase.


Headaches: Types, Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment (clevelandclinic.org)
Migraine – Symptoms and causes – Mayo Clinic
Migraine vs. Headache: How to Tell the Difference – Penn Medicine
Take this Headache Quiz to check whether your headache is a migraine. (kauveryhospital.com)

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