One of the world’s most undertreated and underdiagnosed headache disorder is Migraine.1 This can be attributed to the fact that it is usually misdiagnosed and confused with other forms of headaches. Migraine is a common, episodic, disabling headache disorder that affects about 15% of the world’s population and predominantly observed in women2. It is characterised by severe headache on one side of the head along with autonomic nervous system dysfunction and in some patients, an aura3. Since Migraine headache is classically confused with general headache or sinus headache3, here we list down certain strong signs that proves you are suffering from Migraine.

1) You experience headaches anywhere between 4-72 hours  

The International Headache Society has stated that a person should be considered to be suffering from migraine if the duration of his headache lasts from 4-72 hours4. If you experience headaches from a prolonged period that does not go away by taking medicines, then it is a definitive sign of migraine.

2) Your Headache is making you feel nauseous

If your headache is accompanied by nausea and/or vomiting, then it indicates a Migraine attack.  When migraine strikes, it affects the brainstem areas that regulate the autonomic nervous system such as heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate etc. As the digestive system is affected during a migraine attack, undigested food remains back in the stomach which may cause uneasiness and thus the feeling of nausea5.

 3) The headache is one sided only

As opposed to a general headache which is experienced across the head, a migraine headache is felt only on one side of the temple, hence it is also called a unilateral headache. Additionally, a migraine headache is of throbbing or pulsating nature that differentiates it from a general headache.

4) One of your parents displayed similar headache profile

Several researches done in this area have shown that migraine is a genetic condition and inherited from either of the parents who is a migraineur2

5) Intensity of pain hinders daily activity

Migraine headache is hailed as the 7th highest cause of disability worldwide6. With high prevalence of photophobia (sensitivity to light), phonophobia (sensitivity to loud sounds), sleep disturbance, nausea and vomiting during a migraine attack, majority of migraineurs experience difficulty in performing day-to-day activities leading to physical, psychological and social consequence6.

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6) You experience an aura that is followed by a headache within 60 minutes 4

The International Headache Society describes Migraine with Aura as recurrent attacks, lasting minutes, of unilateral fully reversible visual, sensory or other central nervous system symptoms that usually develop gradually and are usually followed by headache and associated migraine symptoms4. A Visual aura is seeing flashing lights in the centre of vision prior to the commencement of the headache. In many migraine patients, an aura serves as a warning for an upcoming migraine attack. A Migraine headache with aura is also known as Classic or Classical Migraine.

7) You experience a headache around the time of your menstrual cycle (females)

Evidence has shown that a sudden oestrogen withdrawal just prior to the onset of menstrual cycle can lead to a migraine attack in some women4. This is also known as Menstrual Migraine or Oestrogen Withdrawal Headache4.

Migraine is a complex neurological disorder and can be extremely disabling owing to the nature of its manifestation. Since it is easy to confuse a migraine headache with other forms of headache, it is crucial that you consult a headache specialist as soon as you suspect your headache to be migraine. Remember, migraine is a treatable condition.

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Refs:

  1. Nurse Pract. 2016 Jun 19;41(6):18-32. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27203455
  2. Neurol Genet. 2015 Jun; 1(1): e8. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4821080/
  3. Springerplus. 2016; 5: 194. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4769246/

4, http://www.ihs-classification.org/_downloads/mixed/International-Headache-Classification-III-ICHD-III-2013-Beta.pdf

  1. J Neurosci. 2015 Apr 29; 35(17): 6619–6629. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4412887/
  2. J Neurosci Rural Pract. 2016 Apr-Jun; 7(2): 250–256. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4821934/