Did you know that women are 3 times more likely to suffer from migraines than men? Every day, thousands of people around the world suffer from migraines, which can often be difficult to treat. But how do you know if you are experiencing a migraine and not just a regular headache? People often confuse migraines with regular headaches, so it’s important to know the symptoms and the differences as treatment options will vary.
Regular headaches can range from mild to severe and are generally caused by factors like dehydration, stress, anxiety, sinus problems or muscle strain. They generally only happen occasionally and are usually easily treated with a dose of aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Other more serious headaches may be the result of other medical problems. Migraines on the other hand, are identified by recurring moderate to severe headaches with throbbing pain that can last anywhere from 3 hours to 3 days or longer. Migraines most often occur on one side of the head but may extend to both sides. Sometimes migraines include pain in the temples or behind an eye or ear. Migraines are often accompanied by light or sound sensitivity, nausea and even sometimes vomiting. You may also hear the word “aura” associated with migraines, as some migraine sufferers will experience this phenomenon preceding an on-coming migraine episode. Auras can include seeing flashing lights or spots before your eyes as well as other unusual sensations including numbness.
Treatment and Remedies for migraines
According to the Mayo Clinic, migraine treatment can come in the form of pain-relieving medications or preventative medications. Treatment strategy will depend on the severity of the recurring migraines.
Pain relievers for mild migraine cases can include ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Some people with migraines have experienced some relief with regular headache home remedies such as applying an ice pack to the forehead, neck or scalp area, drinking tea or coffee, acupressure, applying peppermint oil to the forehead and temples, eating or drinking ginger or resting in a dark and quiet room. Note that although some people have found relief with the caffeine from coffee and tea, too much can lead to a new headache.
For more severe cases of migraine, doctors may recommend the use of Triptans, which make blood vessels constrict and block pain pathways in the brain. These medications can have side effects. Other medications and treatments may include ergots, anti-nausea medications, opioids, and glucocorticoids.
Preventative medications may include cardiovascular drugs, antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs, Botox and anti-inflammatory drugs.
If you are unsure if you are experiencing migraines or just frequent regular episodes of headaches, a neurologist should be able to diagnose the condition based on your medical history, your symptoms, and by conducting a thorough exam which may include blood tests, MRI or CT scan. Always consult with your doctor before testing out any remedies or treatment options.
For more information regarding migraines and migraine treatment, visit the Mayo Clinic website.