What Exactly Is a Migraine?

A migraine is a severe, recurring type of headache that is usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light and sound, and even pain in the face or jaw. Most people describe a migraine as a pounding or pulsating pain on one side of the head.

Migraine Symptoms

The symptoms of a migraine can vary from person to person. Common symptoms include:

  • Severe, throbbing pain on one side of the head
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Visual disturbances (including seeing “auras” or flashes of light)
  • Pain in the face or jaw
  • Dizziness or vertigo
  • Fatigue

Why Do People Get Migraines?

The exact cause of migraines is unknown, but there are several potential triggers that may cause an episode. These triggers can vary from person to person, but may include:

  • Stress
  • Hormonal changes (such as during menstruation)
  • Bright lights and loud noises
  • Strong odors
  • Changes in weather or altitude
  • Caffeine
  • Processed foods and foods containing preservatives
  • Alcohol

How Can Migraines Be Treated?

Migraines can be managed and treated in several ways. Most treatment plans involve both medications and lifestyle changes. Medications used to treat migraines include:

  • Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Triptans
  • Anti-nausea medications
  • Corticosteroids

In addition to medications, keeping a headache diary to identify patterns and triggers, avoiding potential triggers, getting enough rest, and practicing stress-management techniques can all help to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines.