Splitting Headache: Is It a Migraine?

I Have a Splitting Headache, Is It Serious?

Most of the chronic headaches are benign and not serious. Most of the serious headaches are tension type of headaches.

What are the Different Types of Headaches?

There are three types of headaches:

  1. Migraine Headache
  2. Tension Headache
  3. Cluster Headache

My Headache is Mostly Unilateral, Is It a Migraine Headache?

My Headache is Mostly Unilateral, Is It a Migraine Headache?

Most of the unilateral headaches are migraine headache. Migraine headache is always unilateral but rarely migraine headache can be bilateral. Cluster headaches are rare but often unilateral. Cluster headache seldom can be bilateral. Tension headache is mostly bilateral but at few circumstances tension headache may be unilateral.

Is Migraine a Common Illness Among Females?

Thirty million Americans suffer with migraine headache every year. Migraine headache is three times more common among female patients. Hormonal changes among females during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause triggers migraine headache.1

What are the Symptoms of Migraine Headaches?

Migraine headache symptoms include severe pain (headache) and aura. Migraine headache is preceded by an aura in 20 to 33% patients. Symptom of aura starts about 30 minutes before actual headache symptoms observed.
 

Symptoms of Migraine Headaches

Characteristics of Migraine Headache:

  • Mostly unilateral and occasionally bilateral.
  • Throbbing and pulsatile severe pain.
  • Mostly located on lateral side of the scalp above ear and also on forehead above the eyes.
  • Intensity of pain is moderate to severe.
  • Physical activities during headache initiate nausea, vomiting, or both.
  • Aura such as sensitivity to light, noise and smell precedes headache. Intensity of pain becomes worst if not treated.

Aura Symptoms are as Follows:

  • Visual Symptoms - See spots, flashing lights, seeing wavy lines and visual loss.
  • Numbness or a "pins-and-needles" feeling in hands, arms, or face.

Associated Symptoms:

  • Unable to speak or having difficulty in speaking.
  • Tingling and numbness spread over face, arms, and shoulders.
  • Hemiparesis - Unilateral short term weakness on one side.
  • May feel like fainting and lightheadedness.

Can Headache Get Better Without Treatment?

Yes, it may last 48 to 72 hours or longer.

How Often are Attacks of Migraines Observed in One Month?

You may have migraines several times a month.

Why do I Feel Depressed and Irritable On and Off?

You are going through premonitory warning symptoms. Premonitory symptoms are observed between migraine attacks in 40% to 60% of migraine attacks.

Premonitory symptoms are observed between migraine attacks in 40% to 60% of migraine attacks

Premonitory symptoms are as follows:

  • Sleepiness.
  • Irritability.
  • Fatigue.
  • Depression or euphoria.
  • Excessive thirst, retention of fluid, and increased urine volume.
  • Diarrhea or constipation.
  • Lethargy or yawning.

Can Migraine Cause Stroke?

No, migraine does not cause stroke. Most of the scientific studies indicate there is no risk of migraine causing stroke. But one of the studies involving 20925 patients performed in Taiwan and published in scientific journal suggests 0.54% of migraine group had stroke risk.2 Vascular anomalies of blood vessels in brain causes tension headache. Stroke is caused by lack of blood supply to brain or bleeding within the brain from rupture aneurysm. Vascular anomalies like aneurysm causes continuous tension headache, which is not associated with aura. Vascular anomalies or cerebrovascular diseases are rare in patients suffering with migraine headache.

What is a Cluster Headache?

Cluster headaches appear in cluster or groups. Premonitory warning symptoms are absent unlike migraine headaches. Cluster headache is an intense headache and a lot severe at times than migraine headache. Cluster headache is caused by chemical changes in brain and often associated with aura. Typical symptom of cluster headache is tearing or bright red blood shot eyes and running nose on same side as headache.

What Treatment Choices Exist for Migraine Headache?

Medications used for migraine headache are either to prevent migraine or treat active headache. Several medications are used for prevention and for abortive treatment of active migraine. Abortive medications are prescribed for headache after migraine headache has commenced with moderate to severe intensity.

Which are the Abortive Therapeutic Medications?3

  • Non steroidal anti-inflammatory medication.
  • Ergots - Dihydroergotamine (DHE) is prescribed for migraine headache and most of the patients suffering with migraine headache respond within 5 minutes. Ergotamine can be prescribed as tablets, suppositories and nasal spray.
  • Tryptans - Triptan are prescribed as a nasal spray and intravenous therapy. Sumatriptan injection is very effective in treatment of migraine headache and works within 15 minutes. In most of the cases, the effect of nasal treatment last less than 45 minutes. Quality of pain relief is better with intravenous therapy than nasal spray treatment.

Which are Preventive Medications?

  • Beta Blockers - Inderal and Toprol, which relaxes blood vessels.
  • Calcium channel blockers - Cardizem and Procardia, vasodilator and relaxes blood vessels causing migraine headache.
  • Tricyclic antidepressants - Amitriptyline.
  • Anticonvulsants - Depakote and Topamax.

Is There Any Alternative Therapy to Treat Migraine Headache?

Migraine headache is at times difficult to treat. Alternative therapy is tried if pain relief is inadequate with traditional treatment or some patients are tired of taking medication. Therapeutic effects and side effects of alternative therapy for migraine are not documented in any scientific literature. Choices of alternative therapies are as follows:

Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: May 2, 2016

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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