All migraines are headaches, but not all headaches are migraines. Fortunately, migraine and headache symptoms differ. If you can identify the symptoms associated with migraines and headaches, you can determine if your headache might be a migraine.
Now, let’s look at 10 common migraine symptoms, along with some of the ways to treat migraines and headaches.
1. Pain on One Side of the Head
A migraine attack often causes throbbing pain on one side of the head. Comparatively, a tension headache may result in throbbing pain on both sides of the head; a tension headache may also cause pain around the eyes, cheeks and forehead.
2. Visual Phenomena
During a migraine attack, you may experience flashes of light, different shapes and other visual phenomena. A migraine attack may make you more sensitive to light (photophobia) and sound (phonophobia), too.
Research indicates the gut may slow down due to a migraine. If this occurs, you may start to feel nauseous. You may also experience dizziness and feel the urge to vomit.
4. Neck Stiffness
A migraine may affect the trigeminal nerve, i.e. a cranial nerve that is responsible for chewing, biting and other motor functions in the face. If the trigeminal nerve is activated during a migraine attack, the nerve may send pain signals from the spinal cord to the brain. In this instance, your neck may start to feel stiff.
5. Heightened Sense of Smell
Research shows specific scent and pain receptors in the brain may be activated during a migraine attack. This may result in a heightened sense of smell, as well as increased sensitivity to strong smells and odors.
A migraine sometimes results in sensory aura, leading to weakness, numbness or tingling on one side of the body. It may also cause you to experience speech aura, which may cause slurred or garbled speech.
7. Unusual Food Cravings
Sudden urges for chocolate, cheese and other unusual foods may occur during the prodrome stage of a migraine attack; this phase generally marks the beginning of a migraine. Meanwhile, once you start to experience head pain, your food cravings likely will disappear.
Migraine and depression symptoms often appear similar, and they are sometimes related to one another. The American Migraine Foundation (AMF) notes migraine patients are two to five times more likely than others to experience anxiety, agitation and other depression symptoms. Additionally, AMF points out approximately 25% of migraine patients experience depression, and 50% have anxiety.
Research has linked irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), a large intestine condition frequently associated with constipation and other gastrointestinal issues, to migraines. A migraine attack sometimes alters the brain’s production of serotonin, a chemical that narrows blood vessels. Meanwhile, the intestines may become flooded with serotonin during constipation.
A migraine may last anywhere from a few hours to several days, and as such, a migraine takes a toll on the body. If you experience a wide range of migraine symptoms, you may feel physically and mentally exhausted. Once a migraine attack ends, you may feel extreme fatigue as well.
How to Treat Headaches and Migraines
Migraines are common problems for millions of people worldwide. Yet without a proper diagnosis, migraines may go untreated. In this scenario, you may experience migraine attacks that make it tough to work, go to school or perform various everyday tasks.
For those who experience headaches three or more days per week, consulting with a doctor is key. A doctor can then perform a patient evaluation, as well as offer a personalized headache treatment plan.
Sometimes, doctors recommend over-the-counter (OTC) medications to alleviate headache pain. These medications may provide instant headache pain relief, but they offer no guarantees. In fact, OTC medications may fail to deliver the desired results or cause nausea, vomiting and other unwanted side effects.
If headache pain lingers after an initial treatment, a doctor may provide a migraine diagnosis. The doctor may then prescribe different migraine medications or offer alternative treatments.
Of course, chronic migraines may be problematic, too. If you experience 15 or more headache days per month, you may be dealing with chronic migraines.
A neurologist can provide a chronic migraine diagnosis, as well as prescribe chronic migraine medications. However, if chronic migraine medications are ineffective or cause intolerable side effects, Dr. Jonathan Cabin of The Migraine Institute can help.
Dr. Cabin is board-certified in head and neck surgery and has dual-subspecialty training in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. Dr. Cabin’s unique expertise enables him to identify a patient’s anatomical migraine triggers. Then, Dr. Cabin develops a custom treatment plan to help each of his patients achieve long-lasting migraine pain relief.
There is no need to let chronic migraine symptoms persist. Instead, chronic migraine patients searching for alternatives to migraine medications can meet with Dr. Cabin to find a safe, effective and personalized long-term migraine treatment.
Dr. Cabin is available to meet with chronic migraine patients who are struggling to relieve their symptoms. To schedule a consultation with Dr. Cabin, please call us today at 310.461.0303.