Is it a Headache? Or, Do You Have A Migraine?
By Usha Kiran Nuthi, M.D.
Most of us periodically experience the typical headache, known as a tension headache. In fact, the tension headache is cited as our most common source of pain. According to recent statistics, most children will experience a headache by age 15, and nine in 10 adults experience headaches.
These headaches may come on slowly and may feel like constant pressure is being applied to the front of the face, head or neck. The cluster headache is more severe and can be sudden and very painful. They occur at the same time each day or night.
The migraine headache is often described as sudden and strong. It is pounding and pulsating and concentrated at the front, and on only one side of the head.
Physical activity or even a little movement can worsen a migraine, and individuals with migraines may experience extreme sensitivity to sound and light. This heightened sensitivity is one of the main differences between migraines and other types of headaches.
Migraine: Recent Statistics
Some people have only occasional migraines, while others may have them every month for several days at a time. If left untreated, they can last between 4 hours and 3 days in adolescents and adults. They usually go away quicker in younger children.
Women have more migraines than men. Most people experience episodic migraines; that is, they occur occasionally and at irregular intervals. It is rare for migraine attacks to become chronic, de ned as experiencing a migraine for more than 15 days every month.
What Are the Signs and Symptoms of a Possible Migraine?
- Some people may see things as blurry or in wavy lines. They may experience flashing lights or strange shapes. They may also experience tingling; called “auras,” these sensations usually go away after about an hour.
- Other temporary symptoms may be paralysis and trouble speaking.
- Nausea and vomiting are also symptoms.
What Are the Causes of a Migraine?
- Some of the following examples can make experiencing a migraine more likely: • Lack of restful sleep
- Irregular meals
- Stress or even winding down on the weekends or on vacation
- Seasonal changes
- Changes in hormonal levels in women
- Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages, certain foods, like chocolate, mature cheeses and the artificial sweetener aspartame
Chronic Headaches/Migraines Associated with Depression, Anxiety & Stroke
- Recent studies have shown that untreated migraines and headache disorders may release neuropeptides in the brain that can predispose individuals to depression, anxiety, irritability and poor sleep. Treatment of the chronic headache over time can reduce the amounts of neuropeptides and can help to relieve these ailments.Other recent studies have shown that people affected by migraines with “auras” are at roughly double the risk of experiencing Ischemic stroke (the most common type of stroke). Therefore, the importance of identifying and treating migraines with “auras” cannot be understated.
Prevention & Treatment
- Keeping a “migraine diary” to identify triggers may be helpful. Take notes on what was happening just before a migraine attack, noting diet, medication and stress levels.
- Relaxation techniques: yoga, meditation and breathing exercises.
- Your doctor may recommend pain relievers or preventive migraine medications.
About Dr. Nuthi
Dr. Nuthi is a board certified neurologist, affiliated with Northern Nevada Medical Group. She received her Medical degree from New York Medical College in New York, N.Y. She completed her residency at Loyola University Medical Center in Chicago, Ill. Her office is located in the Sparks Medical Building at 2385 E. Prater Way, Suite 205, in Sparks.
If you have concerns about headaches or migraines, a neurologist may be able to help. To schedule an appointment with Dr. Nuthi, please call 775-356-4888.