10 signs you might be having a migraine

Migraine headaches affect about 37 million people in the United States. Are you one of them?

1. The pain is pulsating and throbbing, like its beating in time with your heart.

85 percent of people with migraine experience their headache pain as throbbing or pulsating. This percentage is the same for both men and women.

2. Before the headache started you saw weird lights in your field of vision, or smelled a particular scent

About 25 percent of migraine sufferers experience an aura, which precedes the head pain by about an hour. Although they may manifest in other ways, visual auras are the most common. A phenomenon known as “cortical spreading depression” moving across the brain in a wave-like pattern is thought to contribute to a migraine’s aura.

3. You feel the pain on one side more than the other

A common characteristic of a migraine headache is that it at least starts on one side of the head. The pain may migrate to encompass the entire head, or it may stay localized.

4. You feel the pain mostly around or behind your eyes or in your temples.

The eyes and temples are common sites for migraine pain. Some people feel like the pain is behind their eyes or one eye, while others feel it in one or both temples.

5. You feel nauseous

Migraines used to be called “sick headaches” because nausea frequently accompanies the head pain. A good 75 percent of migraine sufferers report feeling nauseous during their migraines, and in about a third, nausea progresses to vomiting.

6. Someone in your family also has migraines

Migraine is an inherited condition: four out of five migraine sufferers have a family history of the disease. Furthermore, having just one parent with the condition increases a child’s chance of having migraines by 50 percent. If both parents have it, the odds increase to 75 percent.

7. You feel dizzy

Vertigo, or the sensation of spinning, is common in migraines.

8. A couple of days before the headache started, you felt kind of tired out or you had a stiff neck

These symptoms are part of what’s called the prodrome, which can occur up to days before a migraine attack. Learning to recognize prodrome symptoms is an important part of migraine prevention since most migraine medicines work best when they are taken early. Prodrome symptoms predicted migraine attacks 93 percent of the time in one study of migraine patients.

9. Light and sound make the pain worse

Photophobia and phonophobia, an aversion to light and sound respectively, are common in migraine. It’s why many migraine sufferers retreat to a quiet, darkened room during their attacks.

10. Activity worsens the pain

When movement of any kind makes your headache worse, you’re probably having a migraine.

Featured image credit: “migraine-headache-pain.jpg” by r.nial.bradshaw is licensed under CC

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