Headache vs. Migraine – What’s the Difference?
Most people will experience a headache at some point in their lives. In fact, according to the World Health Organization, headaches are the second highest cause of disability worldwide. But what about migraines? What are they, and how do they differ from regular headaches?
What Are Migraines and Headaches?
While migraines and headaches share some similarities, there are also some key differences. For one, migraines are usually much more severe. They can last for hours or even days. They can be so debilitating that sufferers often have to take time off work or school. Regular headaches tend to be less severe and usually go away relatively quickly.
Migraines are a type of headache characterized by severe pain, often on one side of the head. They can also be accompanied by other symptoms like nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines are thought to be caused by changes in brain activity and neurotransmitters.
Many people who suffer from migraines report that certain triggers can set off an attack. Triggers can include:
- Strong smells
- Bright lights
- Certain foods
- Changes in hormones
What Role do Hormones Play?
An imbalance of hormones can lead to migraines and headaches. Hormones are what cause us to perceive pain. When unbalanced, we can get headaches. Estrogen is the primary hormone that affects migraines. Decreasing estrogen levels, such as during menstruation or menopause, can trigger migraines. Other hormones like stress hormones and thyroid levels may also cause headaches.
Over-the-counter painkillers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help ease the pain of headaches and mild migraines. For severe migraines, triptan drugs such as Axert, Relpax, and Frova are often prescribed. These drugs work by narrowing blood vessels and blocking pain signals from the brain.
If you suffer from severe migraines, there are prescription medications that can help to prevent attacks or make them less severe. These include beta-blockers like Propranolol, anti-seizure drugs like Depakote, and various antidepressants.
(Note: It’s important to talk to a trained physician before taking any medication.)
How To Prevent Migraines
There are a few things you can do to help prevent migraines:
- Avoid triggers: If you know what triggers your migraines, try to avoid them. This might mean steering clear of bright lights, strong smells, or certain foods.
- Exercise regularly: Exercise can help to reduce stress and tension, which can trigger migraines.
- Manage stress: Stress is a common migraine trigger. Learning how to better manage stress can help to prevent migraines.
- Get enough sleep: Lack of sleep is another common trigger for migraines. Be sure to get enough restful sleep every night.
- Eat a healthy diet: Eating a nutritious diet can help to keep your body and mind healthy, which can help to prevent migraines.
Don’t Ignore the Pain
If you’re experiencing a headache, it’s likely nothing to worry about. But if you’re experiencing chronic, severe pain accompanied by other symptoms like nausea or sensitivity to light and sound, it may be a migraine.
If you think you may be suffering from migraines, it’s important to see a doctor. They can help you to identify any triggers and develop a treatment plan that works for you. Ignoring the pain won’t make it go away, and it could lead to further health complications down the road.
If you have any questions about headaches, migraines, or hormone therapy in Denver or Aspen, we are here to help. Call (303) 957-6686 to schedule a consultation or complete the online booking form.