After the piece a couple of days ago on common triggers of headaches, it became imperative to do a piece on migraines. The basic question here is how to know you suffer from migraine as opposed to headache.
My first encounter with migraine was with my cousin. At first I thought it was just a way of attracting attention to herself the way she was going on and on about the pains in her head.
I felt she was blowing a common headache out of proportion. After all we all have headaches from time to time without busting everybody’s balls about them.
It was later I understood, with the benefit of a little more education, that hers was a classic case of migraine. I felt bad I wasn’t able to empathize more at that time because migraine is really a debilitating problem for sufferers.
So how can you know you suffer from migraine? Or how can you tell a friend, sibling or colleague is suffering from migraine? The knowledge of differentiating between migraine and headache can go a long way in helping those who suffer from the problem.
Ways to know you suffer from migraine
There are six common ways to know you suffer from migraine instead of just the regular every headache. These are;
The intensity of the pain
This is one of the easiest ways to know you suffer from migraine. Though both migraines and headaches are accompanied by pains in the head, migraine pains are on a different level entirely.
Migraine pains are so intense and feel as if they are coming from right inside your head. Most times, the intense pains affect only one side of the head making it more localized and thereby more painful.
Length of time
The duration of migraine is another good indication one is suffering from something more pronounced than a headache.
With headaches, the pains last from a few minutes to some hours only. Most times, with a bit of rest, the headache goes away.
Migraines on the other hand can’t be got rid of so easily. Sometimes, Migraines can last up to a few days before one is free from the latest bout.
Differences in symptoms between migraine and headache
For headaches, the symptoms can be bundled into just the pain one feels. Migraine on the other hand comes with a lot of symptoms. Some of them include;
- Sensitivity to light where the pains increases in the presence of bright light.
- Other environment factors such as some smells and loud sounds or noise can intensify the pain felt.
- People with migraine are prone to dizziness.
- Due to either sensitivity to light, sounds or smells in the environment, vomiting and nausea are commonly a part of migraine
- One unfortunate symptom of migraine is an inability to sleep because of the pain. This lack of sleep then leads to both physical and mental tiredness in the patient.
Migraine has clearly defined phases
Typically, migraine symptoms come in phases. Most people with migraine all experience the following phases
- Prodromal phase- this is the early warning signal phase accompanied by mood swings, frequent use of the toilet to urinate, irritability and a sudden lack of interest in things.
- Aural phase- about half an hour to about one hour before the pain sets in, the patient might see images a little wavy or blurry at the edges. Sometimes, there would be glows around objects.
- Ground Zero- this is the point where the paint hits
- Postdromal phase- this is the phase were the pains subsides. This is accompanied by a feeling of exhaustion and of course relief since the pain is no more.
While headache triggers can easily be isolated and prevented, it is not so clear cut for migraine. This makes it very difficult to prevent or even find a good treatment for migraines.
Some of the triggers or cause of can be as varied as
- Changes in hormone levels in the body which can be triggered by so many things
- A person can suffer from migraine due to all sorts of allergies.
- Migraine could run in the family in which case, the presence of the problem is simply down to genetics
- Damages to some important nerves can lead to migraines. The damage could be as a result of physical accidents or just internal damage from ingesting the wrong drugs or substances.
Management of migraine vs. headache management
When it comes to managing both problems, there is a stark difference.
While for headaches, taking over the counter drugs with water can easily resolve the problem, migraine is a different case entirely.
Treating or managing migraine involves several approaches at the same time.
- First of all, patients must endeavor to get plenty of rest in a dark quiet room away from loud noises and sounds. In addition to that, patients would need to take strong analgesics for the pain and relaxants that would help them rest peacefully.
- In some cases too, doctors would have to prescribe drugs to take care of the nausea and vomiting. Beta blockers may be used in severe cases where the patient suffers from the problem multiple times per month.
- Other more radical treatments are available to migraine patients. It all depends on the severity of the problem and the doctor’s recommendation.
This clearly shows that migraine is a very serious problem that shouldn’t be handled with levity.So it is important never to confuse migraine and everyday headache.
One important fact about migraine is that it affects women more than men. As a matter of fact, the ratio is for every four patients 3 of them are women.
Feel free to let us know about your experiences with migraine. Or specifically, how you got to know you suffer from migraine. How are you managing the problem? And do you know anyone with the problem and how they live with it?