A migraine is a common type of headache. It may occur with symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light. In many people, a throbbing pain is felt only on one side of the head.
Some people who get migraines have warning symptoms, called an aura, before the actual headache begins. An aura is a group of symptoms, including vision changes. An aura is a warning sign that a bad headache is coming.
Migraine headaches can be triggered by certain foods. The most common are:
Alcohol, stress, certain odors or perfumes, loud noises or bright lights, and smoking may also trigger a migraine.
Try to treat your symptoms right away. The headache may be less severe. When migraine symptoms begin:
Over-the-counter pain medicines, such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin, are often helpful when your migraine is mild.
Your health care provider may have prescribed medicines that are used to stop a migraine. These drugs come in different forms. They may come as a nasal spray, rectal suppository, or injection instead of pills. Other medicines can treat nausea and vomiting.
Follow your health care provider’s instructions about how to take all of your medicines. Rebound headaches are headaches that keep coming back. They can occur from overuse of pain medicine. If you take pain medicine more than 3 days a week on a regular basis, you can develop rebound headaches.
A headache diary can help you identify your headache triggers. When you get a headache, write down the following:
Review your diary with your doctor to identify triggers or a pattern to your headaches. This can help you and your doctor create a treatment plan. Knowing your triggers can help you avoid them.
Lifestyle changes that may help include:
If you have frequent migraines, your doctor may prescribe medicine to reduce the number of your attacks. You need to take this medicine every day for it to be effective. Your doctor may have you try more than one drug before deciding which works best for you.
Call 911 if:
Schedule an appointment or call your doctor if:
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Gilmore B, Michael M. Treatment of acute migraine headache. Am Fam Physician. 2011;83:271-280.
Silberstein SD, Holland S, Freitag F, et al. Evidence-based guideline update: Pharmacologic treatment for episodic migraine prevention in adults: Report of the Quality Standards Subcommittee of the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society. Neurology. 2012;78:1337-1345.
Updated by: Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Department of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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