Take a guess, how many Americans suffer from migraines?

10 million? 20? Would you believe it’s a staggering 47 million Americans!

And around 75 percent of those affected are women.

Migraines cause terrible headaches, and most of us probably get one of those from time to time. So how can you tell if you’re having a migraine or just a doozy of a headache?

There are several key signs that can help your doctor to identify which is which. Join us as we explore migraines vs headaches, and see what you can do to reduce the symptoms.

What Is a Headache?

A headache is a pain in the head, sometimes extending into the face. They are very common and there are over 150 different types. One of these is migraine.

Typically, a non-migraine headache includes pain on both sides of the head. They can range from mild discomfort to severe pain.

Headache Symptoms

The most common types of headaches are called tension headaches. They produce a throbbing pain, usually on both sides of the head. They will usually improve when you take over-the-counter painkillers.

Sinus headaches happen when you have a sinus infection. You can feel the pain deep inside your cheekbones and forehead. You can also get a fever and the pain gets worse when you move.

The worst type of non-migraine headache is cluster headaches. Cluster refers to getting several headaches, sometimes up to 8 per day, for a period of time. The clusters can last for a couple of weeks or up to three months.

They cause intense burning and stabbing pains. The pain doesn’t go away and is usually behind one of the eyes.

What Causes Headaches?

Sinus headaches result from a sinus infection. Other causes include overusing pain relief medication. This in turn can cause headaches to get worse.

Some people develop headaches as a response to stress, alcohol, depression, noise, and even changes in the weather.

What Is a Migraine?

It’s true that a migraine is a type of headache, but it comes with many other symptoms. It can be called migraine disease and its symptoms can have a huge impact on people’s daily lives.

Migraine Symptoms

Migraines are divided into two main categories – with aura, and without aura.

In this context, aura refers to a range of symptoms that tell a person that a migraine is on its way. They include:

  • Seeing flashing lights or dots
  • Numb or tingling skin
  • A strange feeling
  • Ringing in the ears
  • Temporary loss of vision

Symptoms vary from person to person, and not all migraine sufferers get them. The aura can continue when the headache comes or may go off.

Both migraine with aura and migraine without aura usually features a throbbing headache on one side of the head. It will get worse with physical activity or other stimuli, such as lights, smells, or noise.

Migraines are often exhausting and it will be impossible to work through them. They can also cause nausea and dizziness. They can last for several hours and in the worst cases for several days.

Some other types of migraine include:

  • Migraine with aura, but no headache
  • Retinal migraine – causing pain and short term vision loss
  • Hemiplegic migraine – causing temporary paralysis

Chronic migraine is a serious condition that causes migraines at least 15 days per month. This creates a cycle of frequently taking medication, which can in time make the migraines worse.

The Stages of a Migraine

Migraines go through four main stages. The initial phase alerts the person that a migraine is coming.

The prodrome stage is the preheadache phase. It can vary in length from a few hours to a few days, or sometimes it may not come at all. Symptoms can include food cravings and changes in mood.

The aura phase, described above, manifests itself differently in different individuals. Most migraines sufferers will not experience these symptoms.

The headache phase is the most intense phase of the migraine. For some people it is mild and for others, it is disabling.

Finally, the postdromal phase occurs when the headache pain has eased off. Typically people feel exhausted, washed out, and sometimes confused.

What Causes Migraines?

It is not fully understood why some people suffer from migraines. Some forms, such as familial hemiplegic migraine runs in families. This form can be triggered by stress, head trauma, and even some types of food.

Women are much more likely to suffer from migraines than men, and hormonal factors could be to blame for this. Around half of women who suffer from migraines notice a link between migraines and their period. They often occur in the days leading up to and during a period.

Other hormone-related migraine causes include:

  • Pregnancy
  • Menopause
  • Contraceptive pill

Allergies and environmental factors can also trigger migraines. Allergies cause inflammation, which can develop into migraines in some people. Other people develop them due to lack of sleep, stress, food triggers, and weather changes.

Treatment for Headaches and Migraines

Treatments for headaches and migraines usually start with over-the-counter medications. They can be effective for mild pain, but for more severe pain, a sufferer may need prescription medications. These include antidepressants, Botox injections, beta-blockers, and antiseizure drugs.

Many people prefer a migraine treatment that doesn’t involve medication. If your headache or migraine has been triggered by alcohol, one option to consider is a hangover IV DC. Intravenous hangover treatments quickly hydrate the body and deliver nourishing vitamins and nutrients to help fuel and refresh the body. Hangover IV cocktails help your body recover from a night out, helping you shed the toxins that may be triggering your headaches faster. Alternative treatments include:

  • Exercise
  • Stress management
  • Massage
  • Acupressure

Avoiding food triggers can also help to reduce the number of attacks. Common food triggers include:

  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Nitrite containing foods, such as deli meats
  • MSG
  • Cheese

However, some people find that caffeine can help them with their symptoms when taken in moderation.

Migraines vs Headaches: What’s the Difference?

Migraines vs headaches – how can you know which is which? A migraine is a headache with bells on. You often get nausea, fatigue, and an aversion to smell, sounds, and light.

Migraine is usually on one side of the head, whereas a headache is often on both. Both migraines and headaches can seriously impact your quality of life. Seek medical advice so that you can control them as much as possible.

If you’ve enjoyed this article and would like more insights into common conditions, head over to our Health section today!