Migraines Part 1

Migraine headaches are a common condition that millions of Americans struggle with each day.  Migraines come in many different forms but are generally described as a disabling headache accompanied by sensitivity to light with associated nausea. These painful and often times debilitating headaches are a problem that leave people mystified and searching for answers.  In this 3 part blog series we will aim to answer the questions that many people have a about their migraines. 

In this first blog, we will describe the different types of migraines and how to distinguish what type of migraine you may be suffering from.

Migraine with aura

The two broad categories of migraine fall into migraine with aura and migraine without aura.  Migraines with aura usually has a warning sign or an "aura" indicating the person is about to experience a migraine.  The aura is usually some type of neurological symptom; numbness, tingling, visual disturbances, or confusion and occurs 5-60 minutes before the actual headache onset.  These types of migraines are more severe but shorter in duration.  They are more likely to be associated with some type of trigger that classically causes the headache.

Migraine without aura
Unlike the migraine with aura, the migraine without aura comes on with no real warning signs.  These have been described as a moderate to severe pulsating headache that may occur on one or both sides of the head.  They may be accompanied by light sensitivity, confusion, nausea, dizziness, and vision loss.  They typically last longer than migraine with aura, lasting anywhere from 4 hours to several days. 

Less common types of migraines:

Basilar migraine (AKA brainstem migraine)

This type of migraine more commonly affects children and adolescent females and my be associated with menstrual cycles. Symptoms include dizziness, loss of balance, confusion, weakness, and nausea.  They are called basilar migraines because the region of involvement is thought to be at the base of the skull where the brainstem originates. 

Migraine without headache

This strange type of migraine contains all of the symptoms of a migraine just without the headache. People who suffer from these may experience an aura, nausea, light sensitivity, dizziness, and pain in other regions of the body.  

Hemiplegic migraine

This type of migraine is typically more rare than other types of migraines. In addition to having a severe headache, they also result in partial or complete paralysis of one half of the body.  Hemiplegic migraines are thought to have a genetic component and is termed Familial Hemipelegic Migraine (FHM) when more than one family member suffers from this type of migraine. 

Retinal migraine

Also known as an ocular migraine, this type of migraine is characterized as having visual disturbances in one or both eyes.  The visual disturbances experienced may be either blind spots, flashes of light, or loss of color vision.  The good news is that this type of migraine is usually painless and the vision loss is temporary.

Chronic migraine

Chronic migraines are described as migraines that occur for at least 15 days out of the month for three consecutive months.  These types of migraines may or may not have an aura and can vary in their intensity and symptomatology. 

As you have read above, the signs and symptoms of migraines, along with the causes of migraines, can be very different from person to person.  In our next blog, we will look at what some of the most common stressors are that can cause migraines and how to eliminate or reduce them substantially.