If you’re like most people, life doesn’t stop when you get a bad headache. But if your headache is a migraine, it can put you out of commission. About 12 out of every 100 people get migraines. However, the vast majority of migraine sufferers are women — about 3 out of 4 people who have migraines are female.

How are they different?

Migraines are throbbing headaches that occur on one side of the head, often causing pain much more intense than a normal headache. Migraines may also cause nausea, vomiting or sensitivity to noise and light.

Migraines are a double whammy in terms of pain intensity and duration. Often beginning on one side of the head and building in intensity, they may last several days. Some migraines start with a visual aura, including seeing shimmering lights, zigzag lines, wavy images or hallucinations. Non-visual auras include weakness, speech abnormalities, dizziness, or tingling and numbness of the face, tongue or extremities.

When are migraines an emergency?

Headaches, including migraines, are a common reason for emergency room visits, but a good reason to visit the ER is for symptoms that are new to you. New symptoms that you’re not used to if you are familiar with migraine symptoms could indicate another condition, such as an aneurysm or meningitis. Another reason to seek emergency care is for a headache that lasts days or weeks.

What can I do?

Migraine management is as much about preventing migraines as treating them. Migraine headaches are commonly triggered by:

  • Alcohol, such as red wine
  • Environmental changes, such as weather, altitude or time-zone changes
  • Food with caffeine, nitrates or monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • External factors, such as perfume, sun glare, bright lights, stress or loud noises
  • Hormonal changes, such as those that occur around menstruation
  • Changes in sleep patterns

In the past you may have gone to bed, enduring the pain of a migraine. That is no way to live and you have options. Talk to your health care provider if you experience:

  • Several headaches per month, each lasting for several hours or days
  • Headaches that disrupt your life
  • Nausea, vomiting, blurred vision, numbness or tingling associated with headaches
  • Pain around the eye or ear
  • Severe headache that causes a stiff neck
  • Headache with confusion or loss of alertness
  • Convulsions
  • Increased number of recent headaches

Southern Hills Hospital & Medical Center has physicians who specialize in diagnosing and treating migraine disorders as well as identifying what may be causing your headaches. We’ll help you find the relief you deserve.

Sources: NLM.NIH.gov, NINDS.NIH.gov, WomensHealth.gov

To find a physician, call (702) 916-5023