Migraine Headache Symptoms for beginners

Migraine is inherited.  It comes in families.  Women have it three times more than men probably related to hormones.  It starts in the teenage years, is maximum in the early forties, and gets better in the sixties.

Migraine has nicknames such as: hungry headache, menstrual headache, nocturnal headache, barometric pressure headache, or weekend or holiday headache.

Headache with a migraine may be one-sided or generalized and is often in the front of the head in the temples or behind the eyes but sometimes they start in the back of the head.

Considering pain could be quantified on a scale of 1-10, migraine headaches are usually over 5 and commonly 10.

There may be associated symptoms with the headache such as: nausea, vomiting, throbbing, disability, or the need to lie down and miss work or social activities.  There may be sensitivity to light and sound.

A single episode of migraine may last 4-72 hours but headaches lasting longer than that are usually caused by overtreatment and the drugs used for overtreatment are: caffeine, Tylenol, Advil, Aleve, opiate narcotics, butalbital headache drugs, or triptans.

In the migraine world overtreatment may result from using one of the above drugs more than 2 days a week.  The principal is that the stronger the drug, like a narcotic, the less amount of the drug is needed to cause daily headaches.  For instance, caffeine or Tylenol for Advil, or so-called over-the-counter drugs, taken 15 days a month may give daily headaches to some migraine patients.  However, narcotics such as opiate-containing drugs, barbiturate drugs, or triptans may give daily headaches if taken only 10 days a month.

The message here is that migraine patients should have effective acute therapy drugs that will treat their headaches quickly, at the beginning, and then they don’t need to chase their headache with over-the-counter or narcotic drugs.

The most effective prescription acute therapy migraine drugs are triptans and there are 7 of those.  If migraine is treated early with a triptan, 80% of patients may be headache free at 2 hours.  There is no other type of drug that is so effective.

Chronic migraine is 15 headache days a month, 8 of which have migraine features.  80-90% of patients with chronic migraine are overtreating with some sort of drug.  However, many persons don’t have headache everyday for a month but they may have headaches lasting 4 to 10 days and those are examples of mild short term overtreatment which causes frequent headaches.

Migraine triggers may be stress, estrogen issues, not sleeping well, barometric pressure change, or missing meals.