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10 August 2022 | Brain Health, Health, Genetics

Is your headache actually a migraine?

woman-headache

We have all experienced headaches before, but when does a simple headache become a migraine? Having recurring migraine episodes can be scary, especially when your head is throbbing for hours - you might start to wonder if there is a serious issue. Fortunately, most migraine episodes are not dangerous but naturally, you would want to know what is causing them and how to best treat them.

What’s a migraine?

A migraine is a very common neurological disease that is most notably characterized by a throbbing, pulsing headache on one side of your head. While they are often one-sided, it can also occur anywhere on the head, neck and face. Migraines likely get worse with physical activity, lights, sounds or smells, and can last at least 4 hours or even days.

What are common symptoms of migraine?

It can be difficult to recognize whether or not your head pain is actually a migraine since headaches can be a symptom of a range of conditions. While the symptoms often vary from individual to individual, the primary symptom of a migraine is a throbbing headache that can lead to more severe pain if left untreated. The pain can shift around the head, neck and face. Some people also feel pain around their eyes, sinuses, or jaw.

Other symptoms of migraines include:

  • Sensitivity to light, noise and smell
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Loss of appetite
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness and blurred vision

What causes migraines?

Affecting more than 12% of the US population, the exact cause of a migraine is still unknown. There’s belief that migraines are a result of abnormal brain activity temporarily affecting nerve signals, chemicals and blood vessels in the brain. However, it is likely that genetics play a part in increasing the likelihood for someone to experience migraines as a result of a specific trigger.

Possible migraine triggers include hormonal, emotional, physical, dietary and environmental factors. While these triggers vary among individuals, here are some that people may experience:

  • Alcohol
  • Weather changes
  • Lack of sleep
  • Dehydration
  • Hunger
  • Strong smells
  • Menstruation
  • Stress
  • Bright lights
  • Loud noises

How are migraines treated?

Migraines can be debilitating for some individuals - it’s not just the headache that causes discomfort, but the sensitivity to light and sound can impair an individual’s ability to do everyday tasks. Treatment for migraine is aimed at stopping symptoms and preventing migraines from occurring in the future. Medication for migraines fall into two broad categories:

  1. Pain-relieving medication. These drugs are aimed at stopping the symptoms of migraine and can be taken during a migraine attack. They include over-the-counter or prescription pain-relievers such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Anti-nausea drugs can also help with symptoms of nausea and vomiting that sometimes accompany migraines.

  2. Preventative medication. These drugs are aimed at reducing the severity or frequency of migraines and are taken regularly. Some options include antidepressants, anti-seizure drugs and blood pressure-lowering medication.

Better understand migraines with Prenuvo

Usually, a doctor can diagnose a migraine just by assessing your symptoms; however, your doctor may recommend an MRI scan in certain situations where your migraines are not getting better with treatment or you exhibit other symptoms. Sudden changes in headache patterns or certain signs can be indicators of a more serious underlying condition.

While MRI scans are not always used to diagnose migraines, it can provide a very detailed image of the brain and show areas that can’t be seen with other kinds of imaging scans. Millions of people experience migraines and are often left without clear answers as to why it’s happening or how it can be treated. A Prenuvo MRI scan can help alleviate the uncertainty with high-quality and precise imaging of the brain and spine that can help your doctor rule out other causes of migraines and headache pain such as brain tumors, spinal cord injuries and strokes. After you get a Prenvuo scan, you’ll receive your images and report that can be shared with your family doctor so they can work together with you to find the best solutions for your health needs.

Getting a Prenuvo scan for your migraine is a safe and painless procedure that compliments your overall neurological assessment to better understand what is causing your migraines. For more information on scanning for migraines, contact our team here.

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