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Headache And Migraine – Are They Different?

By Author: Ankush Trivedi
Total Articles: 6

Headache is disorder that is cohesive with many other illness and conditions. It is such a universal experience that almost everyone suffer from a headache at some point in their life. However, when headache starts to appear in a pattern or is accompanied with other unwanted symptoms, then the headache may be a warning sign of another complex headache disorder – MIGRAINE

What is Migraine?

Migraine is a result of particular psychological variations in the neurotransmitters of the brain that causes throbbing one-sided headache accompanied by other sensory symptoms. Since the first sign of migraine is a headache, people often confuse their condition to be a general headache.

How to differentiate migraine headache from general headache?

When migraine strikes, it is not just confined to the head, but affects the normal functioning of other parts of the body. Firstly, a migraine headache is felt only around one side of the head, often on the forehead or above an eyebrow. Some people complain of sensory disturbances such as aversion to light, strong smells and loud sounds. Symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, hearing weird noises etc are always accompanied with migraine headaches. Some people also complain of flashing lights or hazy spots called Aura few minutes prior to an oncoming migraine attack. A migraine headache is worsened if the sufferer indulges in physical activity; hence most migraineurs prefer a silent and dark area of the house and wait until the headache subsides. In many cases, vomiting provides an immediate and much needed relief. It is often noticed that over-the counter headache pills or tablets are ineffective during peak migraine headache. Moreover doctors warn that blindly consuming headache pills can cause further difficulty and headache.

A headache is termed a general headache if it is felt throughout the head as opposed to just one side. Also some headaches can be the result of other conditions such as a hangover, illness, injury to the head, fall, stress etc. These headaches usually go away as soon as the main condition is resolved, eg, a hangover headache can be cured within an hour, a stress headache can be cured with a light massage or a headache due to illness subsides as soon as the illness is cured.

How does a migraine diary help?

Doctors are of the opinion that people who suffer from recurrent headache must maintain a dairy for their headache, monitoring their day-to-day activity and food consumption. With the help of this record, one can pinpoint at the cause of headache with ease. Also, the headache can be diagnosed to be a migraine or general headache. If a pattern emerges through this diary, then avoiding the triggers can help in preventing further migraine headaches. Knowing family history and knowledge from this diary can further help the doctor in prescribing a correct treatment. You can follow this link to understand more on how to maintain a migraine diary http://www.mewithoutmigraine.com/migraine-diary/

Other commonly occurring headaches:

Not all headaches are migraine and it is normal to experience a sharp pain in the head once in a while, even for a migraineur. The most common types of headaches as classified by the International Headache Society are –

Tension Type Headache – A light form of headache that is usually felt at the top of the head along with pain in neck and shoulders. This pain can last anywhere from 1 hour to several days. If it is not treated or controlled, then it can progress into a chronic headache

Chronic Headache – A headache that lasts more often, usually 15 days in a month is termed as chronic headache. This headache could be due to psychological reasons such as anxiety or depression or other co-morbid conditions such as migraine or withdrawal symptoms of substance abuse.

Medication overdose headache – Taking pills too often without consulting doctor can lead to an overdose of medication leading to constant headache. Also, discontinuing a medication such as anxiety, depression, contraceptive, etc can cause what is known as rebound headache.

Sinus Headache – A headache caused due to inflammation of sinus, predominantly during a cold/flu attack, is called a sinus headache. Since this headache is also experienced around the temples and forehead, many people confuse it as a migraine headache.

Headache due to eye strain – Staring too much at the computer, TV, mobile screen, books etc can also lead to a mild headache.

Migraine is a severe and debilitating headache disorder that needs medical attention. If your headache appears in a pattern or is accompanied with nausea, vomiting, aversion to light, sound, smell etc, then it could be migraine and not a general headache. By understanding the symptoms well and doing proper diagnosis one can differentiate between migraine and headache and seek appropriate treatment.

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