Not all headaches are migraines, but migraines are part of the headache family. Understanding exactly occurs during a migraine can help in receiving the proper diagnosis and migraine treatment.

Headaches refer to any pain within the head, face or neck. This pain may be centralized to one portion or emanate throughout all areas.

There are three main categories of headaches: primary, secondary, and painful cranial neuropathies.

  1. Primary: Refers to a headache that occurs on its own; the three major types of primary headaches are migraine, tension and cluster.
  2. Secondary: Refers to a headache that cause by something else, such as medication overuse headache (which is caused by using too many migraine medications over a long period of time).
  3. Painful Cranial Neuropathies and Other Facial Pain: Generally related to nerve abnormalities, such as inflammation, in the upper part of the head and neck.

Although many people consider all “bad” headaches “migraines, there are very specific triggers and symptoms that must occur to receive a migraine diagnosis.

Generally, migraines last 4-72 hours and require a certain combination of the following symptoms:

  1. Occurring on one side of the head
  2. Pulsating quality
  3. Moderate to severe pain intensity
  4. Made worse with physical activity
  5. Nausea and/or vomiting
  6. Sensitivity to light (photophobia)
  7. Sensitivity to sound (phonophobia)

In addition, about ⅓ of migraine sufferers experience auras (Classic Migraine), which are certain sensory symptoms (like visual changes) that occur right before a headache hits. These patients tend to be evaluated a bit differently than non-aura (Common Migraine) patients.

There are many environmental migraine triggers, such as:

  • Foods and food additives
  • Environmental changes
  • Hormonal changes
  • Medications
  • Stress

Many other symptoms can be associated with migraines, and these include:

  • Abdominal pain
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Fever

Migraines affect 39 million Americans and 1 billion people worldwide annually, and migraines occur more frequently in women than in men.

A primary care doctor is usually the one who initially diagnoses migraine headaches. However, it is recommended that patients who suspect they have migraines see a neurologist for a full workup. This is particularly important for individuals who are considering migraine surgery, as surgery will not be considered without a diagnosis from a neurologist.

When it comes to migraines, it is always better to err on the side of caution. For those who may be experiencing migraine symptoms – or having trouble differentiating between the two – The Migraine Institute is happy to provide assistance.

Dr. Jonathan Cabin of The Migraine Institute is board-certified in head and neck surgery and possesses dual-subspecialty training in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. He uses advanced techniques and treatments to help patients identify migraine triggers and find long-term migraine relief.

To schedule a consultation with Dr. Cabin, please call us today at 310.461.0303 or fill out our online form.

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