A migraine isn't just a bad headache. A migraine is a particular kind of bad headache. The pain can be on one or both sides of your head. You may feel sick to your stomach, throw up, and be extra sensitive to light, sounds, and smells.
Migraines usually last between 4 hours and several days
Migraines come and go and may happen only once in a while or many times a month
Migraines often start during puberty or when you’re a young adult, and they happen less when you’re over 50
Migraines are more common in women
You may be able to figure out things that trigger your migraines (such as red wine) and avoid them
Doctors can’t cure migraines, but they’ll give you medicine to lessen symptoms
You get a migraine when nerve cells and blood vessels in your brain are stimulated and disturbed. Doctors aren't sure why this happens to some people and not others. However, migraines do seem to run in families. So if you have family members who get migraines, you're more likely to get them.
For people who get migraines, certain things can trigger them:
High levels of the female hormone estrogen—which occurs especially during puberty, before, during, and after a woman’s period, after childbirth, at the beginning of menopause, or when taking birth control pills (which contain estrogen)
Too much stimulation of your senses, such as flashing lights or strong smells
Too little sleep
Changes in the weather
Hunger, especially from skipping meals
You have pain in your head. Often the pain is pounding or throbbing and only on one side. But the pain can also be steady or on both sides. You'll also have other symptoms like:
Migraines aren't dangerous. However, migraines are very unpleasant. Most people can't do their normal activities during a migraine. Many people have to lie down in a dark room until the migraine goes away.
You may have some early symptoms before you get a headache:
About 1 in 4 people with migraine have changes to their sight, speech, or movements just before the headache begins. This is called an aura. Some people get the aura but no headache, or only a mild headache. Symptoms of aura can include:
Doctors can tell based on your symptoms and an exam. When you first start having migraines, doctors may do other tests, such as an MRI of your head, to see if another problem is causing your headaches. Once doctors know you have migraines, they do tests only if a headache is different than your usual migraine. A different kind of headache can mean you have a different problem.
If you have a mild to moderate migraine, doctors will have you take:
Doctors may tell you to lie down in a dark, quiet room and try to sleep. Migraines often go away during sleep.
If you have a severe migraine doctors may give you:
If you get frequent migraines, doctors may have you keep a headache diary to write down when you have a migraine, what caused it, and your treatment, so you can look for patterns.
Doctors may give you medicine to prevent migraines if you have:
Other things that may help: