Migraine Headaches

Migraines are a type of headache that usually begin between the ages of 5 and 55, and are characterized by severe pain felt on one or both sides of the head. The pain of migraine headaches is often described as an intense pulsing or throbbing pain in one area of the head. The World Health Organization considers these headaches to be one of the most debilitating diseases in the world, affecting an estimated 28 million Americans.

What Are Migraine Headaches?

A migraine headache is a severe pain felt on one, and sometimes both, sides of the head. The pain is mostly in the front, around the temples, or behind one eye or ear. Besides pain, a person with migraines may have nausea and vomiting, and may also be highly sensitive to light and sound.
 
Migraine headaches can occur any time of the day. However, they often start in the morning. The pain can last a few hours or up to one or two days. Some people can get as many as ten migraines a month, but the average is around 1.5 per month.
 

What Causes Them?

Migraine research scientists don't know what causes these headaches. However, there are a number of things that people with migraines tend to have in common. For example:
 
  • Most often, migraine headaches affect people between the ages of 15 and 55, though they can affect people as young as 5 years old
  • Many people have a family history of migraines
  • They are more common in women
  • Migraine headaches often become less severe and frequent with age.
 
(Click Migraine Causes to learn more about the theories behind what causes migraines.)
 

Symptoms of Migraine Headaches

The pain of migraine headaches is often described as an intense pulsing or throbbing pain in one area of the head. It is often accompanied by extreme sensitivity to light and sound, nausea and vomiting, or lack of appetite.
 
There are several different types of migraine headaches, each with somewhat different symptoms. Some individuals can predict the onset of a migraine headache because it is preceded by an "aura." An aura consists of visual disturbances that appear as flashing lights, zig-zag lines, or a temporary loss of vision.
 
(Click Migraine Symptoms to learn about other less common symptoms. Click Types of Migraines to learn about the different types.)
 
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Migraine Information

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