“Myth of Migraines versus Headaches”

By: Melissa Fears

Ever feel like curling up in a dark corner due to a massive headache? It could be a migraine. Many people with migraines go undiagnosed due to the similarities they share with tension headaches.

Migraines are a disease, while headaches are just symptoms of it. Migraine pain is caused by the expansion of the blood vessels, while headache pain is caused by the narrowing of the blood vessels.

While migraines also involve head pain, they can also include symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, pain behind the eyes, dizziness, trouble seeing, muscle weakness and abdominal pain. The brain can act out and can send out unneeded signals, which can mess with your body’s normal activity. A headache, on the other hand, does not create this type of pattern in the brain.

Prior to the migraine itself, it is common to experience “auras” such as, feelings of intense energy, cravings for sweets, thirstiness, drowsiness, irritability or depression. There may be sensitivity to light and sound. Nausea can be common.

Migraines are genetic and typically are much more common in women than men. Individuals with a single parent having Migraine have approximately a 50% chance of having Migraine. This susceptibility is neither psychological nor induced by environmental causes.

Triggers such as weather, food, menstrual cycles and stress can all be causes. Crave-worthy foods such as Chinese foods with MSG in them, chocolate, sodas with artificial sweeteners, citrus fruits and aged beer and cheese can all trigger migraines. Doctors recommend that it is best to avoid these.

Estrogen is the main female hormone and also a potent trigger for migraines. Estrogen supplements or estrogen-containing medication like birth control can be the culprits.

The key to treating the migraine is to recognize it right away and treat it correctly. A common mistake is people take headache medicine to help it, but do more harm than good. Beta-blocker medicines dilate the blood vessels in the brain and can make the migraine worsen.

Simply and quite unscientifically put, the difference between a migraine and a headache is that the former feels beyond agonizing and a million times worse than the latter. See your local physician for further inquiries or questions on how to better distinguish between the two.

Sources:

http://www.migraines.org

http://headaches.about.com/lw/Health-Medicine/Conditions-and-diseases/Migraine-Triggers.htm

http://www.mayoclinic.com

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