The Differences Between Migraines and Headaches, Explained

Difference Between Migraines and Headaches, a white woman in profile grabbing her head, health
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Your head hurts, but is it a headache or a migraine?

Headaches and Migraines

Many people use words "headache" and "migraine" interchangeably, but they're actually very different things! It might not mean much when you're in pain, but the difference between having a headache and a migraine can determine how to treat what ails you. The differences between migraines and headaches are interesting and will hopefully help you out the next time your head begins to hurt!

What Is A Headache?

A Headache is an "unpleasant" pain, ache, or pressure anywhere in your head than can actually range from fairly mild to severe. Common areas people get headaches include the temples, forehead, and the back of the neck. Headaches can range in length, from as short as 30 minutes to as long as a week.

There are two types of headaches: primary headaches and secondary headaches. Primary headaches are headaches in which the headache is the main condition, meaning the headache isn't caused by something else. Some types of primary headaches include tension headaches, cluster headaches, and migraines.

Secondary headaches are a symptoms of "something else that is going on in your body." Typically, if the cause of the headache is treated, the headache will go away. Sinus headaches, hormone headaches, caffeine headaches, and exertion headaches are some types of secondary headaches.

According to the Mayo Clinic, tension headaches are the most common type of headache due to anxiety, stress, and muscle strain. There are hundreds are different types of headaches.

So What Is a Migraine?

Migraines are a primary headache and classified as a neurological condition due to the often severe and debilitating pain and other symptoms they cause. It isn't uncommon for migraines to last for days or to cause people need emergency care, especially before being diagnosed. Most of the time, migraines affect one side of your head and is often characterized by throbbing pain that disrupts daily life.

Approximately 20 percent of people with migraines will get auras, a problem with movement, speech, vision, and sensation. This can include problems speaking or a tingling sensation in your arm or face. Nausea, vomiting, dizziness, temporary vision loss, pain behind the ears or eyes, throbbing or pulsing pain in your head, or pain in the left or right side of the head or in the temples. Light and sound sensitivity are common during a migraine.

Many people discover triggers for their migraines. Some common ones include anxiety, sleep disruption, alcohol, dehydration, skipping meals, bright lights, certain foods, and hormonal changes from contraceptives or menopause.

It is common for multiple people in the same family to get migraines, with women three times more likely to get migraines than men. There has been a connection found between migraines and people with nervous system conditions.

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