The World Health Organization (WHO), states that headache is one of the most frequent conditions of medical consultations . But not all headaches are the same. Today we will talk about a very common type of headache: migraine

Headache: differences between headache and migraine

Migraine, or hemicrania, is a very common, genetically-based disease that usually affects between 12% and 16% of the population. But, what is the difference between headache and migraine?

Headache and migraine are not the same thing. Headache is an annoyance that causes headache. There are two types: primary headaches, which have many causes; and secondary headaches, which derive from a disease. For example, a brain tumor or Lyme disease.

Migraine and tension headache belong to the group of primary headaches , although migraine usually appears together with nausea and vomiting. As far as these are concerned, the type of pain is different. While migraine presents a pulsating pain, headache is characterised by an oppressive pain, such as pressure on the head. Migraine also tends to affect half of the head, and tension headache affects both halves. Headache can appear for different causes: stress, fatigue, anxiety, excess of coffee or tobacco, and migraine is genetic.

Migraine symptoms

Migraine causes great suffering to the person who suffers it and to their families. Generally, it appears as recurrent attacks of headache, which can be several in their frequency, intensity and duration. As has been said, this pain is usually located on one side of the head, and in addition to appearing together with nausea and vomiting, patients usually manifest discomfort towards light and noise. Migraine is a condition that is both chronic and episodic, which manifests itself in the form of attacks .

In summary, the most common causes of migraine are:

  • Headache
  • Sensitivity to light and noise
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Lethargy (lack of energy)

Tension headache and migraine represent up to 95% of primary headaches and, without a doubt, the latter disease causes deterioration in the quality of life of people who suffer from it.

Types of Migraine

There are different types of migraine, and therefore the symptoms and severity may vary from person to person .

Knowing exactly the type of migraine is essential to employ the most effective treatment. In fact, 60-70% of migraine patients are not correctly diagnosed, among other things because it is difficult to objectively know the symptoms they produce and the areas of the head that are affected by that sensation of pain. Thus, the correct diagnosis largely determines the success of the cure.

Taking into account the classification of the International Headache Society (ICHD-3), the types of migraine are

1. Migraine without aura (common migraine)

This is the most common type of migraine and the most frequent. Symptoms include moderate to severe throbbing headache that often occurs without warning . The pain is usually felt in only one part of the head, and appears along with nausea, confusion, blurred vision, and excessive sensitivity to light, noise, and odors.

In some ways, this type of migraine resembles a headache whose intensity is very high, i.e. a quantitative difference from a common headache and common with a few extra symptoms, such as sensitivity to light.

Attacks last from 4 to 72 hours and are usually repeated a couple of times a week. Body movement makes the symptoms worse.

2. Migraine with aura

Also known as classic migraine or complicated migraine, is characterized by visual disturbances and other neurological symptoms , known as auras, which appear 10 to 60 minutes before the headache occurs. The person who feels it may partially lose vision.

The aura can occur without a headache and can manifest itself at any time. In addition to visual disturbances, other symptoms may appear such as: abnormal sensation, numbness or muscle weakness on one side of the body; a tingling sensation in the hands or face; difficulty speaking and confusion. Nausea, loss of appetite, and increased sensitivity to light, sound, or noise may precede the headache.

3. Migraine without headache

As its name indicates, this type of migraine does not present a headache, but it does present vision problems and other symptoms associated with the aura . In addition, it may appear with belly pain, nausea or vomiting.

Some experts suggest that fever, dizziness, or unexplained pain in one part of the body may also be a result of this type of migraine.

4. Basilar Migraine

Basilar migraine mainly affects children and adolescents, and includes migraine symptoms with aura that originate in the brain stem. However, patients do not have motor weakness. It tends to occur more often in adolescent women and may be associated with their menstrual cycles.

Symptoms include partial or complete loss of vision or double vision, dizziness and loss of balance (vertigo), poor muscle coordination, ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and fainting. The throbbing pain may come on suddenly and be felt on both sides of the head, particularly in the back.

5. Hemiplegic Migraine

Hemiplegic migraine is a subtype of migraine that occurs infrequently . However, its symptoms are severe, because it causes temporary paralysis in a part of the body that can last for days. This paralysis usually emerges before the headache.

Symptoms such as dizziness, prickly feeling, and vision, speech, or swallowing problems may begin before the headache and usually stop shortly thereafter. When it occurs in families, this disorder is called Familial Hemiplegic Migraine.

6. Retinal Migraine

This type of migraine is rare and is characterized by attacks of visual loss or alterations in one eye . These attacks, like the most common visual auras, are preceded by migraine headaches. On the other hand, visual loss cannot be explained by damage to the eye or the optic nerve.

7. Chronic Migraine

When headaches occur for 15 or more days a month, at least three months, then chronic migraine is diagnosed.

Chronic migraine can be with or without aura, and usually requires preventive medication . Behaviors to control the onset of symptoms are also necessary, as chronic migraine can be disabling. After taking the drugs, almost 50% of patients continue to have migraine, but this time it is episodic.

Migraine Prevention

Although the cause seems to be genetic, there are different factors that precipitate the symptomatic appearance of migraine. Therefore, it is always best to take precautions to minimise the impact of this condition :

  • Diet : some patients react with migraine to certain foods. This is why it is necessary to detect them and avoid consuming them. In addition, alcohol, Chinese food, chocolate or smoked foods are more likely to cause migraine. It is also advisable to eat at regular times.
  • Sleep hygiene : maintaining healthy sleep habits can help prevent migraine.
  • Hormone level : For women, it appears that hormones related to the menstrual cycles are likely to trigger these episodes. Contraceptives, which cause changes in estrogen levels, worsen migraine symptoms and frequency.