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7 facts and myths about migraines
Learn the truth behind these often-disabling headaches
Migraines are one of the more painful types of headaches you can get. They usually produce a severe throbbing pain on one side of the head. They frequently come with nausea, vomiting and a sensitivity to sound and light.
Learn more about these debilitating, painful headaches.
Myth or fact: Migraine is just another term for headache.
MYTH. Migraines are a form of headache. But migraines are also a neurological disease that can sometimes be accompanied by structural changes in the brain. Additional symptoms of migraine can include difficulty concentrating, vertigo, visual disturbances, numbness, impaired speech and weakness.
Myth or fact: All severe headaches are migraines.
MYTH. Other types of headaches can be very painful. These include cluster headaches, tension headaches and sinus headaches.
Myth or fact: Not all migraines come with a warning “aura.”
FACT: About 25% to 30% of people with migraines experience aura. That often consists of visual disturbances, like flashing lights and zigzag lines. Some people get tingling sensations that travel from one arm to one side of the face. These warning symptoms usually disappear within about a half hour and are followed by a severe headache.
Myth or fact: Caffeine always makes migraines worse.
MYTH. You might trigger a migraine from overdoing it on caffeine. But it’s actually one of the key ingredients in some of the more effective over-the-counter migraine medicines. Drinking a caffeinated soda or coffee can sometimes help relieve migraine pain.
Myth or fact: Some foods can cause migraines.
FACT. Certain foods can trigger migraines—but they vary among people. Triggers for one person may not cause a migraine for you. Some of the foods and substances commonly associated with migraines are alcohol, chocolate, cheese, gluten, and foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) or histamine.
Myth or fact: Taking more headache medicine for a migraine attack will help control it.
MYTH. Relying too much on pain relievers can cause rebound headaches—also called "medication overuse" headaches. Taking large amounts of medication to get rid of a migraine can lead to more frequent and severe migraines in the future.
Myth or fact: Effective medicines are available to treat migraine.
FACT. Doctors often prescribe a class of drugs called triptans to relieve migraine pain. There are seven different triptans—all are available as tablets and some are available as an injection or a nasal spray. There are also a variety of medications that can be used to prevent migraines.
Should you see a doctor for your headaches?
- American Migraine Foundation. "Migraine and Aura." https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/migraine-and-aura/.
- American Migraine Foundation. "Top 10 Migraine Myths." https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/migraine-myths/.
- American Migraine Foundation. "Understanding Migraine Medications." https://americanmigrainefoundation.org/resource-library/migraine-medication/.
- National Headache Foundation. "The Complete Headache Chart." https://headaches.org/resources/the-complete-headache-chart/.
- National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. "Headache." https://www.ninds.nih.gov/health-information/disorders/headache.