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What Is a Migraine Headache?

by Kristy Martz
  • Overview

    A migraine headache is more painful than a typical headache. The symptoms of a migraine headache are also more severe and debilitating. There are warning signs that a migraine headache will soon occur, as well as various treatment options. A sizable portion of the population experiences migraines. According to the Mayo Clinic, "up to 17 percent of women and 6 percent of men have experienced a migraine."
  • Symptoms

    A migraine causes some or all of the following symptoms: moderate to severe pain (which may be localized to one or both sides of the head), pulsating or throbbing pain, pain that becomes more intense with activity, pain that is so severe it prevents a person from enjoying normal activities, nausea and sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Frequency

    A person may experience migraine attacks frequently or only a few times per year. A typical migraine can last between 4 and 72 hours.
  • Warning Signs

    Some people experience warning signs that a migraine will soon occur. These signs are called auras. A person may experience any of the following auras: sparkling flashes of light, zigzag lines before your eyes, slowly spreading blind spot, tingling in arms and legs, weakness or language and speech difficulty.
  • Causes

    There are several common migraine triggers, including hormonal changes, certain foods, stress, sensory stimuli (such as glare from the sun), changes in wake-sleep pattern, changes in a person's environment and medications.
  • Treatment

    Treatment options include pain-relieving medications and preventative medications (taken regularly to prevent migraines). Anti-nausea medication is also available to help those who cannot prevent migraines.

    References & Resources