Migraine comes in a variety of different “flavors,” and it “tastes” different to each of us. Yes, the base ingredients are the same, but symptoms and severity can vary by person, attack, and over time.
It’s a fact: 60% of women and 70% of men with Migraine aren’t diagnosed properly. Getting an accurate diagnosis is critical for the right treatment. Some medications are actually dangerous to people who actually have Migraine with Aura, for example.
According to the International Headache Society’s ICHD-3 classification system, there are seven types of Migraine. They’re classified by how doctors diagnose and treat them, not when or how we feel them.
1. Migraine without Aura (formerly called Common Migraine). This is the most frequent type of Migraine. Symptoms include moderate to severe pulsating headache pain that occurs without warning and is usually felt on one side of the head It comes along with nausea, confusion, blurred vision, mood changes, fatigue, and increased sensitivity to light, sound, or smells. Attacks typically last 4-72 hours, and they repeat a few times a year to a few times a week (see Chronic Migraine, below). Movement generally makes the attack worse. Importantly, this Migraine without Aura is the type more prone to worsen with frequent use of symptomatic medication.
2. Migraine with Aura (formerly called Classic or Complicated Migraine). This type of Migraine includes visual disturbances and other neurological symptoms that appear about 10 to 60 minutes before the actual headache and usually last no more than an hour. You may temporarily lose part or all of your vision. The aura may occur without headache pain, which can strike at any time. Less frequent aura symptoms include an abnormal sensation, numbness, or muscle weakness on one side of the body; a tingling sensation in the hands or face; trouble speaking; and confusion. Nausea, loss of appetite, and increased sensitivity to light, sound, or noise may precede the headache.
Many patients who have Migraine with Aura attacks also have Migraine without Aura attacks and Tension Type Headaches, so it’s possible for your Migraine case not to fit neatly into one “type.” Read a Migraine Journey about a Migraine with Aura patient.
3. Migraine without Headache is characterized by visual problems or other aura symptoms, nausea, vomiting, and constipation, but without head pain. Technically, this is known as Typical Aura without Headache. Headache specialists have suggested that fever, dizziness, and/or unexplained pain in a particular part of the body could also be possible types of headache-free Migraine. It’s different from the complications known as Abdominal Migraine and Cyclical Vomiting Syndrome, which often occur in children.
4. Migraine with Brainstem Aura (formerly called Basilar-Type Migraine) mainly affects children and adolescents, this includes Migraine with Aura symptoms that originate from the brainstem, but without motor weakness. It occurs most often in teenage girls and may be associated with their menstrual cycles. Symptoms include partial or total loss of vision or double vision, dizziness and loss of balance (vertigo), poor muscle coordination, slurred speech, a ringing in the ears (tinnitus), and fainting. The throbbing pain may come on suddenly and is felt on both sides at the back of the head.
5. Hemiplegic Migraine (a sub-type of Migraine with Aura) is a rare but severe form of Migraine that causes temporary paralysis – sometimes lasting several days – on one side of the body prior to or during a headache. Symptoms such as vertigo, a pricking or stabbing sensation, and problems seeing, speaking, or swallowing may begin prior to the headache pain and usually stop shortly thereafter. When it runs in families, the disorder is called Familial Hemiplegic Migraine (FHM). Though rare, at least three distinct genetic forms of FHM have been identified. These genetic mutations make the brain more sensitive or excitable, most likely by increasing brain levels of a chemical called glutamate. Read a Migraine Journey about a Hemiplegic Migraine patient.
6. Retinal Migraine is a very rare type of Migraine characterized by attacks of visual loss or disturbances in one eye. These attacks, like the more common visual auras, are usually associated with Migraine headaches.
7. Chronic Migraine is characterized by headaches occurring on 15 or more days per month for more than 3 months, which have the features of Migraine headache on at least 8 days per month. They can be with or without aura, they usually require preventative medications and behaviors to control, and they are often disabling. After drug withdrawal, about half of Chronic Migraine patients revert to Episodic Migraine and half do not. Preventative habits are highly advised to keep the condition from progressing from Episodic to Chronic. Read a Migraine Journey about an Episodic-turned-Chronic Migraine patient.
Don’t Miss: 12 Ways to Win Your Battle with Chronic Migraine
Many Migraine types formerly thought to be distinctive disorders have now been classified as “complications.” Really, they’re patterns of occurrence or strange symptoms that are linked to Migraine – like a tilted head in an infant. For those, check out our article on Strange Migraine Complications. It can help unlock the mystery of your personal Migraine case, as it did mine.
If you’re wondering: where is Hormonal Migraine? Morning Migraine? Status Migrainosus? Abdominal Migraine? Complex Migraine? Well, these technically aren’t official Migraine types anymore, according to the IHS. I asked Peter Goadsby MD, one of the top doctors influencing IHS and AHS policies why these new terms were adopted. His explanation: the World Health Organization needed a common language to define all the Migraine sub-types so that doctors and patients around the world could compare notes and exchange data. That seems like a very good idea.
If you suffer from Menstrual Migraines three days before every period, you can keep calling that. Ditto for Weather Related Migraine and Morning Migraine, the kind that wrecks your day before it even starts. As Migraine sufferers, we tend to think of the occasions when attacks occur and major symptoms to name our pain.
This content was originally published here.