WHEN IS A HEADACHE NOT JUST A HEADACHE?

For most people, a couple of aspirin will relieve the pain of a headache. But for the 6 percent of individuals who suffer from migraines, relief can be elusive.

“A normal headache usually lasts from one to two hours,” said Kevin Misischia, DO, of Mountain Region Family Medicine. “Migraines can last anywhere from four hours to three days or even longer.”

The pain of a migraine is far more severe than that of a normal headache, Dr. Misischia said. Other symptoms include visual changes, upset stomach, vomiting and sensitivity to light.

Symptoms of a migraine vary from person to person, as do the causes. Migraines are hereditary, and they may also be caused by blood flow or chemical imbalances in the brain.

Women are more likely than men to have migraines, and migraines usually develop early in life.

“If a 50-year-old patient told me this was the first time she had a migraine, I would be a lot more concerned that maybe there was something else causing the pain,” Dr. Misischia said.

Almost anything can trigger a migraine – everything from foods such as caffeine or diary products to environmental situations such as bright light or strong odors, emotional changes such as stress or fatigue and even certain medications.

Since the cause of migraines varies from person to person, treatment methods also differ. Some people find non-prescription painkillers effective, while others require prescription medication.

“Keeping a diary can help identify what causes a migraine,” Dr. Misischia said. “It may be impossible to avoid all the triggers, but knowing the cause of the pain can help patients better manage their migraines.”

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