my migraine
Migraine Information
Migraine Headache Glossary
Types of Headaches
Understanding Migraine
Migraine Myths and Realities
What Others can do to Help
Migraine Triggers
When Should You See Your Doctor?
Helping Yourself
Migraine Headache Glossary

Aura: a warning sign that a migraine is about to begin, and usually occurs about 10 to 30 minutes before the onset of a migraine. Aura generally lasts less than 20 minutes. The most common auras are visual and include blurred or distorted vision; blind spots; or brightly colored, flashing or moving lights or lines. Other auras may include speech disturbances, motor weakness or sensory changes.

Classic migraine: another term for migraine with aura.

Common migraine: another term for migraine without aura.

>Headache: a general term that refers to a persistent pain in the head region.

Headache diary: a form used to record a person's headache characteristics and triggers. This information will help your health care providers correctly treat your headaches.

Migraine: a vascular headache associated with changes in the size of the arteries within and outside of the brain. A migraine causes mild to severe pain and lasts from 4 hours up to a month, and usually occur 2 to 4 times per month. A migraine begins when hyperactive nerve cells send out impulses to the blood vessels, causing constriction, followed by the dilation of these vessels and the release of prostaglandins, serotonin, and other inflammatory substances that cause the pulsation to be painful. Migraine is a genetic disorder that is inherited.

Migraine Trigger: a factor that can set off a migraine in people who are predisposed to migraines. Some common triggers include emotional stress, sensitivity to specific chemicals and preservatives in foods, caffeine, changing weather conditions, changes in female hormones, tension, excessive fatigue, skipped meals or changes in normal sleep patterns.

Phonophobia: sound sensitivity.

Photophobia: light sensitivity.

Triptans: selective serotonin 5-HT1B/1D agonists, are acute migraine drugs.


Types of Headaches
Many times a person will have what they believe to a migraine, when in reality it is a different type of headache. Below are brief overviews of some of the most common types of headaches. However, with any type of severe headache, always work with your doctor or healthcare professional.

  • Cluster Headaches: The term "cluster headache" refers to a type of headache that recurs over a period of time. Cluster headaches are one of the most severe types of headache. It can be 100 times more intense than a migraine attack.
  • Sinus Headaches: Sinus headaches are associated with a deep and constant pain in the cheekbones, forehead or bridge of the nose. The pain is usually accompanied by other sinus symptoms, such as nasal discharge, feeling of fullness in the ears, fever, and facial swelling. Whether your headache symptoms can actually be attributed to the sinuses will need to be determined by your doctor.
  • Ocular Headaches: Ocular headaches are very common. The typical ocular headache has visual symptoms and may or may not be followed by a headache. If a headache does follow the visual symptoms, it is called a migraine headache.
  • Tension Headaches: Tension headaches are among the most common among adults. An episodic tension headache may be described as mild to moderate constant band-like pain or pressure. Tension headaches may last from 30 minutes to several days.
  • Rebound Headaches: Rebound headaches are associated with the overuse or misuse of over-the-counter pain-relievers. Exceeding labeling instructions can cause you to have a rebound headache. Usually, discontinuing the medication or gradually tapering the medication dose will lead to more easily controlled headaches.
  • Menstrual Migraines: Of female headache sufferers, a large percentage reports a menstrual relationship to their migraine attacks. Headaches in women, particularly migraines, have been related to changes in the levels of the female hormone estrogen during a woman's menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels drop immediately before the start of the menstrual flow. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDs) are often used to treat menstrual migraines.

Understanding Migraine
One of the harsh realities of migraine is that you don’t have to suffer from them to be affected by them. When mom can't come to the soccer game, a colleague misses an important meeting, or family vacation plans have to change, migraine takes as great a toll on relationships as it does on the sufferer. This information about migraine may be shared with family, friends, employers, and coworkers. With this increased knowledge, we can work together to ease the isolation so many sufferers feel.
Migraine Has an Impact on Your Life - Every Day
Once considered a psychological or emotional illness, migraine is actually a neurological disease - one that can affect virtually every aspect of a person's life. Although no one knows the exact cause, migraine likely occurs in response to migraine triggers (such as certain foods, hormones, or environmental factors) that cause blood vessels in the brain to overreact. The result: a migraine.
What's it like to have a migraine? Pain is a part of every headache, but for people with migraine that pain is severe and is accompanied by other unpleasant migraine symptoms as well. The sufferer may experience nausea, vomiting, or increased sensitivity to light or sound, among other symptoms. This can go on for 4 to 72 hours - or more. Often, a person cannot carry out everyday activities during an attack. More than half of people with migraine miss 2.2 days of work a month, and many are obliged to restrict their activities - or even remain bedridden - a significant number of days each year. In addition, 15% to 20% of sufferers experience a "warning" sign before migraine onset. This sign, called an aura, may include blind spots, loss of vision in one eye, flashing lights, zigzag lines, and/or shape and size distortion.
It's More Common than you Might Think
Did you know that about 24 million people in the United States alone suffer from migraines? Migraine is most prevalent in people between the ages of 25 and 55. Women sufferers outnumber men 3 to 1. Heredity also plays an important role: 70% to 80% of all sufferers have a family history of the disease.
A Real Impact on Life and Work
Migraine has been called an "invisible" disorder, often underdiagnosed and undertreated, but the toll it takes is unmistakable. Migraine forces many sufferers to restrict their activities, to remain bedridden, and, often, to miss work - a significant number of days each year. Is it any wonder, then, that people with migraine so often feel isolated and misunderstood? Knowing more about migraine can help ease the feeling of isolation that so many sufferers share.

Migraine Myths and Realities
Migraine may be one of the world's most misunderstood ailments. Here are just a few of its myths:

Myth: Migraine isn't serious; it's just a bad headache.
Reality: Migraine is a disease-and headache is only one of its many symptoms. At its worst, migraine can disable the sufferer for days at a time.

Myth: Only women get migraines.
Reality: Although women sufferers do outnumber men 3 to I-possibly due to hormonal causes-both men and women get migraines.In no way is migraine a sign of emotional weakness or an inability to cope.

Myth: Migraine doesn't interfere with people's lives.
Reality: It does-more often than not, and more profoundly than you may expect. Migraine sufferers rank their quality of life lower than patients with hypertension, diabetes, or angina. In addition, a World Health Organization survey found that during a migraine attack, a person is more disabled than someone suffering from well-recognized conditions such as paraplegia, blindness, and deafness.

What Others can do to Help
Pain is only one of the afflictions that migraine victims suffer. Some people with migraines may experience work-related difficulty and/or an undeserved reputation for emotional problems. Acknowledging the disease is the first thing that friends, family; employers, and coworkers can do to help.
Here are a few more:
  • Understand that the sufferer will not always be able to perform according to expectation. Offer the same consideration you would extend to anyone with a debilitating illness.
  • Empathize. Turn down the lights, draw the blinds, or turn off the TV to make the room more comfortable for the sufferer. Take the family out of the house, or take over tasks the sufferer can't manage. Prepare an ice pack. Above all, don't dismiss an attack (or its advance signs) as an emotional problem.
  • Realize that attacks can occur on short notice-and that plans may have to be flexible.
  • Encourage anyone you know who is having symptoms of migraine to see a doctor or healthcare professional.
Remember: Understanding, empathy, and adaptability are the keys for coexisting with this most difficult disease. The understanding of family, friends, and coworkers can help ease the suffering.
If it's true that only a migraine sufferer knows what it's like to live with the disease, it's also true that no one can do as much as you can to help yourself. As debilitating as migraines are, you do have a measure of control; if not to end attacks altogether, then certainly to manage many circumstances that may lead to them. You are your own best defense in your battle against migraine, and in your experience with the disease you have the resources for getting the treatment you need.

Migraine Triggers
A migraine can occur when an agent or a factor called a trigger makes the blood vessels in the brain overreact. Triggers may work alone or in combination with other triggers. Not all triggers affect all migraine sufferers, and different ones may affect different people at different times. But one thing is clear: Knowing what your particular triggers are-and discussing them with your doctor or healthcare professional-may help you limit your exposure to them or even avoid them altogether, if that's what works best for you.
Here are some of the more common migraine triggers:
-aged cheeses (cheddar, Brie, Stilton)
-foods with nitrates (luncheon meats, bacon, sausages, hot dogs, salami)
-MSG (found in Chinese food, packaged soups and stews, gravy mixes, and meat tenderizers)
-alcoholic beverages (especially red wine)
Post-stress: You may think that stress causes migraines, but often the opposite is true. Migraines are more common when stress is over, at times such as vacations or on weekends.
Ovulation or menstruation: These cause hormones to fluctuate, which may bring about a migraine.
Caffeine withdrawal: Abruptly cutting caffeine from your diet may trigger a migraine.
Medications: Some drugs may trigger a migraine.
Environmental changes: In some patients, a drop in barometric pressure may trigger an attack, as may high temperatures, humidity, or rain. Bright lights, loud noises, smoke, fumes, strong odors, or changes in altitude may also be triggers.
Skipping meals: This lowers your body's blood sugar, which may trigger migraines.
Changes in sleep patterns: Too much sleep (or too little) has been associated with migraine. A visit to the doctor can help relieve the pain, disability and isolation of this condition.

When Should You See Your Doctor?
Virtually all migraine sufferers require acute treatment at one time or another. But when should you see your doctor or health care professional-or go for a return visit?
  • if headaches are interfering with your life
  • if you find yourself taking a lot of pain relievers-especially if pain relievers have stopped working for you
  • if you find yourself missing work or limiting your activities-even those you most enjoy
  • if your headache is accompanied by nausea or vomiting
  • if your headache is always on the same side
  • if your headache changes in severity or character

Helping Yourself
Keep a migraine diary.
Keeping a migraine diary is an excellent way to help your doctor or healthcare professional treat your migraine, effectively. In addition, a diary helps you to better understand the triggers and unique patterns of your illness.
Do what you can to reduce how often you experience migraine attacks.
  • avoid triggers
  • eat meals on a regular schedule
  • follow a regular sleep routine
  • exercise regularly; especially
  • low-impact activities such as
  • walking, swimming, or cycling
  • develop techniques to reduce stress (hobbies, biofeedback, relaxation training)
For years, migraine has been an "invisible" disease, underdiagnosed and undertreated. But today, as medical research provides more information, doctors and other health-care professionals are better able to diagnose and treat this disease.