A Migraine Headache is a powerful that often happen with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. They can last from 4 hours to 3 days, and sometimes longer.
The American Migraine Foundation estimates that more than 36 million Americans get them, women 3 times more often than men. Most people start having migraine headaches between ages 10 and 40. However, many women find that their migraines improve or disappear after age 50. They generally last between 4 and 72 hours.
Migraine headaches are a symptom of an overall condition known as migraine. Doctors don’t know the exact cause of migraine headaches, although they seem to be related to changes in the brain as well as to genes that run in families. You can even inherit the triggers that give you migraine headaches, like fatigue, bright lights, weather changes, and others.
A migraine starts when overactive nerve cells send out signals that activate the trigeminal nerve-the nerve that supplies sensation to your head and face. Activation of the nerve causes release of certain chemicals like serotonin and calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP). CGRP causes blood vessels in the lining of the brain to swell. This releases neurotransmitters that create inflammation and pain.
Common migraine triggers include:
You can have a mix of migraine symptoms. Common ones include:
Most migraine headaches last about 4 hours, but severe ones can go for more than three days. How often they happen differs for everyone, but it’s common to get two to four headaches per month. Some people may get migraine headaches every few days, while others get them once or twice a year.
Types of Migraine Headaches
The terms for two types of migraine headaches refer to the symptoms that signal when one is about to start, called an aura.
Migraines usually are associated with sensitivity to sound, light, and smells. This may be accompanied by nausea or vomiting. This type of headache often involves only one side of the head, but in some cases, patients may have pain bilaterally or on both sides.
A migraine can be complicated, with symptoms that change over hours or even days. They tend to move through several stages:
Prodromal Phase: Early Warning Signs
Hours before the migraine begins — and sometimes even the day before — many people may feel:
In some cases, these symptoms before the headache can help doctors diagnose the problem as a Migraine Headache .
About 1 in 3 to 1 in 4 people with migraines get an “aura” that begins before the headache or starts along with it. It may not happen with every headache, though.
An aura can include:
Changes in vision, such as:
An aura can start 1 hour before the pain and usually last for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Visual auras include:
Other auras can affect your other senses. You might just have a “funny feeling” and not be able to describe the sensation. You could also have ringing in the ears or changes in smell (such as strange odors), taste, or touch.
These symptoms may continue to get worse over the next several minutes.
Skin sensations. You might feel tingling or “pins and needles” in your body during an aura. It may also cause numbness. These feelings often affect the face and hands, but they can spread out across the body. They may continue to expand over the next several minutes.
Language problems. You may have a hard time communicating with others. Symptoms may include:
Attack Phase: The Headache Begins
The attack portion of a migraine can last from a few hours to several days. During this phase, you’ll probably want to rest quietly and find it hard to do your normal activities.
The pain of a migraine:
Other symptoms that might happen during this phase:
Following the most severe phase of the migraine, you may not feel well for up to a day. Symptoms of this post-migraine phase may include:
Your migraines may change over time, including how often they happen and how severe they are. Attacks may not always include all of these stages. Also, you may eventually get the aura without having a Migraine Headache. Since many of the symptoms found in these stages of migraines can also occur in very serious conditions such as stroke or seizures, seek immediate medical help for any new symptoms, or ones that have never been evaluated by your doctor.