Migraines For Dummies Cheat Sheet - dummies
Cheat Sheet

Migraines For Dummies Cheat Sheet

From Migraines For Dummies

By Diane Stafford, Jennifer Shoquist

Besides a side-splitting headache, a variety of symptoms can occur when you have a migraine. Identifying common migraine signs will help: determine triggers (causes), create a plan to prevent migraines, and recognize warning signals that require medical attention. Steer clear of migraine myths so they don’t hinder your diagnosis and treatment

Common Signs of a Migraine

Headaches aren’t the only symptom of migraines. Migraines are an umbrella for multiple symptoms, and everyone experiences a migraine a little bit differently. How do you know you have a migraine? The following are the hallmarks of a migraine headache:

  • A drooping eyelid (more common in cluster headaches but it can happen in migraines)

  • Bloodshot eyes

  • Cold hands and feet or feeling hot all over

  • Flushed or pale face or a very red face

  • Frequent, regular headaches

  • Moderate to severe pain

  • Pain lasts several hours to three days

  • Tender scalp

  • Throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head

  • Feeling better after sleeping

Associated symptoms include nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances, sensitivity to loud noises and light, and feeling depressed.

Common Migraine Triggers

Whether internal or external, anything that sets a migraine attack in motion is a trigger. Take a look at the following categories of common migraine instigators so you can track potential triggers for your headaches and steer clear of them in the future:

  • Environment: Weather changes, high altitude, bright lights, fluorescent lighting, strong odors

  • Food and drink: Alcohol, MSG, aged cheese, nitrites, skipped meals

  • Hormones: Menstruation, menopause, hormone replacement therapy, birth control pills

  • Sleep: Irregular sleep patterns, excessive or too little sleep, sleep disorders

  • Odds and ends: Stress, fatigue, certain prescription drugs

Steps to Prevent Migraines

If you’re sick of dealing with migraines you need to develop a plan to prevent them. The steps to getting and staying as migraine-free as possible are:

  1. See your doctor for evaluation and treatment.

  2. Identify triggers and avoid them.

  3. Find medications that work and use them properly.

  4. Find a type of exercise that doesn’t cause migraines for you and do it regularly.

Migraine Warning Signs

Whether you’ve been dealing with migraines for some time or you’ve never experienced one, make yourself aware of the symptoms that require medical attention. Severe headaches should not be taken lightly, if you experience any of the following symptoms, see a doctor as soon as possible:

  • A headache accompanied by a stiff neck, fever, or rash.

  • A headache that strikes like a thunderclap – very suddenly and very painfully.

  • Worst-ever headache.

  • First-ever headache after age 50.

  • Headaches getting worse and more frequent.

  • Headaches brought on by exertion.

  • You faint, lose your vision, or have coordination problems with a headache.

  • You have a family history of brain aneurysms and you’re having headaches.

  • You recently had a head injury, and now you’re having headaches.

  • You’re having bad headaches, and you have certain medical conditions such as cancer, AIDS, diabetes, high blood pressure.

  • You have weakness in your arm(s) and/or leg(s), numbness, slurred speech, breathing difficulty, and/or vision problems.

Debunking Migraine Myths

Falling into the trap of migraine myths can prevent people from being diagnosed and treated properly. Migraines are valid problems. Migraine myths abound and some of the following are the more common misconceptions and the real story:

  • Your doctor would have already told you if you actually had migraines. Not necessarily! Sometimes migraines can be hard to diagnose. You need to tell your health care provider the specific symptoms associated with your headaches.

  • Your migraines are all in your head. Not so! A migraine is a biological illness that can cause great deal of pain.

  • Doctors know what causes migraines. No, they don’t! But many headache experts believe that a disturbance in brain chemicals is the source of migraine development.

  • If you’re a migraineur, every headache you get is a migraine. Nope! Migraine sufferers can have other kinds of headaches as well.

  • Children don’t get migraine headaches. Yes, they do! Apparently, even some babies suffer from migraines.

  • You can’t be having migraines because you don’t have auras (the visual disturbances, such as zigzag or flashing lights). Not true! Many people who have migraines don’t experiences auras.

  • You’re stuck with suffering head pain from migraines because they’re rarely treated successfully. Wrong! Most migraine sufferers who seek help discover medications and lifestyle changes that really help ease their suffering and make headaches less frequent.