How Is a Migraine Headache Different?

While 30 million Americans suffer from it, migraine is still surprisingly misunderstood. People with migraine suffer in unapparent ways, making this an invisible disease.

Migraine headaches can be famously painful, but migraine is more than just a headache. An estimated 50% of those with migraine have never been diagnosed, or have been improperly diagnosed as having another type of headache. Knowing what kind of headache you have can help you find relief through proper treatment.

The type of headache associated with migraine is throbbing and at least moderately painful—at least a “5” on a scale from 1-10. This headache will last from 4 to 72 hours. It is usually felt only on one side of the head, often behind one eye. And it may be initiated or “triggered” by specific compounds or situations (stress, hormones, foods, and many others).

Women have it about three times more often than men. While these painful headaches get plenty of attention, what mostly distinguishes a migraine attack from any other headache type are the sensory symptoms discussed on the next slide.

Other Symptoms

Migraine headaches—throbbing pain, usually on only one side of the head—can be intense enough to prevent you from completing simple tasks or working. But the accompanying sensory symptoms can also derail your day. And they tend to be a little different for every person. While we commonly talk about the headaches involved, some people with migraine do not get headaches.

Migraine attacks can cause vision problems and nausea. Certain smells, sounds, or light levels may become painful. The pain can be so severe that basic tasks and movements become difficult. More than 50% of patients say that they are less productive at home or at their jobs during an attack.

The headache pain may radiate toward your eyes, forehead, or temple and cause nausea, vomiting, vision problems, or oversensitivity to normal light or mild exertion. You may also experience muscle tenderness and pain from light touch.

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