(NC)-A migraine is not just a mild headache. When a migraine occurs, pain centres in the brain are activated, resulting in throbbing pain. Other brain centres may also be activated, resulting in symptoms such as extreme sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and seeing "auras", all this resulting in a debilitating headache.
So how do you know if you could have a migraine, or just a "regular" headache? Here are some examples of the most common types of headaches, and how their symptoms compare to migraines:
Tension type headaches: These come in both intermittent attacks and in a form where the headache is very frequent or even continuous. The pain is usually less severe than in migraine, and nausea and light sensitivity is unusual. Tension type headaches usually require less treatment, and different ones, than migraine headaches.
Cluster headaches: Cluster headaches are much less common than migraine and tension type headache. They occur mainly in men, are one-sided, and headache attacks usually last less than three hours. Cluster headaches can cause redness of the eye and tearing of the eye on the same side as the headache during the attack.
Rebound headaches: Some people can experience a medication-induced headache or "rebound" headache, which is caused by the overuse of symptomatic medications. It's therefore important to communicate to your doctor how frequently you are treating headaches with prescription or non-prescription treatments.
Migraine headaches: Migraine is a chronic biological disorder and is more than just a mild headache. Many people with migraine will experience nausea and vomiting, while others may experience light sensitivity or "auras", which affect sight and can distort vision. Fortunately, most migraine symptoms are temporary and can be treated, but if you have had to stay home or miss activities due to migraine pain more than 2 or 3 times in a month, you may benefit from moving to treatments specific for migraines.
Menstrual migraine headaches: Over 75 per cent of those who suffer from migraine are women. For many women, falling estrogen levels during the onset of menstruation trigger migraine attacks. In some women, menstrual migraine attacks can be longer and more severe than other types of migraine.
It's important to determine what type of headache you are experiencing in order to ensure you're receiving the most effective treatment.
For more information on treatment options, speak with your doctor or visit www.migraineinfo.ca.