Headaches are a common ailment most of us suffer at one time or another. Frequent and severe headaches, however, can be a cause for concern. How do you know if your pain is a headache or a migraine?
Headaches can be triggered by many different things, including caffeine withdrawal, stress, infection, neck pain and eye strain. The most common types of headaches are tension and sinus headaches. Tension headaches usually occur on both sides of the head and are generally mild or moderate in severity, while sinus headaches result from pressure building up in your sinuses. Cluster headaches are rarer. With this type of headache, the pain can spread from your temples to the back of your head and is accompanied with other symptoms like congestion and red and swollen eyes.
A migraine is a type of headache of moderate or severe intensity that can last up to 3 days. Symptoms include a throbbing pain typically starting on one side of the head, sensitivity to light and sound and nausea or vomiting. Physical activity also tends to worsen the pain. Migraines are often hereditary. The Cleveland Clinic reports that about four in five people who are inflicted with migraines have a family history of them.
If your migraine comes with sensory or visual impairments, then you are probably experiencing a migraine with aura, also referred to as a complicated migraine. Symptoms include vision distorted by black dots or zig-zag lines, numbness or speech difficulty. Aura often occurs as a precursor to the head pain. You may be diagnosed with chronic migraine if your symptoms are present more than two weeks out out of every month.
Migraines affect people in different ways. With a hemiplegic migraine, you can temporarily lose sensation in one side of your body, and with a retinal migraine, you can lose vision in one eye. The vision loss can last anywhere from minutes to a few months.
Identifying the root cause of your head pain is not always easy. The Mayo Clinic recommends frequent headache sufferers to keep a diary of their headaches’ frequency, severity, duration, location of pain, and other accompanying symptoms. You should also record all possible triggers. All this will help your doctor determine the diagnosis and best treatment for your pain. Seek emergency treatment if your headache is very severe, comes on suddenly or you experience other worrying symptoms with it like a fever, rash, stiff neck or numbness.
Headache pain that worsens even with medication also warrants immediate medical attention.