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What is a Migraine?

Migraine headaches are a severe but common type of headache. Migraine headaches usually become incapacitating, unlike a tension headache. The pain from a migraine headache tends to localize on one side of the head, but this is not always the case. The pain of a migraine is often described as pulsating or throbbing. Migraines typically last for several hours or even a day or more. A migraine typically lasts for longer than six hours and less than 48 hours.Migraine headaches occur more frequently in women than in men. A family history of migraine headaches is thought to increase the risk of developing migraines. Chronic migraine headaches can start to occur when a person is young, from age 10 to the early 20’s. Most people with migraines experience the onset of the headaches from age 10 to age 45; migraine headache onset in people older than 45 is rare, but it does occur. Older individuals who suddenly start having severe headaches may need to go through more medical testing to rule out other conditions.

In addition to severe headache pain, migraines are often accompanied by other symptoms. Nausea is a very common occurrence. A person with a migraine headache often becomes overly sensitive to light and sound and may go to a dark, quiet room to avoid these things. Fatigue, weakness and appetite loss are also common with a migraine. A person with a migraine may have trouble concentrating on anything because of the pain.

Some people who get migraines experience symptoms before the headache itself starts. These warning symptoms are referred to as a migraine aura. The aura, if it is noticeable, usually occurs immediately before the headache, approximately 15 minutes before the pain starts. Some people with migraines do not notice an aura at all. However, some people with migraines experience aura symptoms several hours before the headache begins. These aura symptoms are typically disturbances of vision, such as difficulty focusing the eyes that leads to blurred vision, tunnel vision, blind spots and flashes of light. Light sensitivity and eye strain can occur before the onset of migraine pain. Some people also experience nausea and inability to concentrate before the headache sets in.

Migraines can be triggered or influenced by certain things, such as hormonal changes, alcohol consumption and stress, but sometimes the cause of migraine headaches is unknown.

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