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Knowing the Difference Between Headaches and Migraines

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Laura Zabriskie

June 17, 2020
Did you know that women are three times more likely to experience migraines? 37% of Americans suffer from migraines in their lifetime, and for those who have them, there is an obvious difference between a migraine and a normal headache. But, for people who have never experienced a migraine, it’s not always as clear. So, what’s the difference between a headache and a migraine? GBMC neurologist Oluwatosin Thompson, MD, appeared on Fox 45 to explain.

Migraines are a type of headache that Dr. Thompson defines as a “recurrent syndrome of head pain with signs of neurological dysfunction.” While normal headaches cause pain and discomfort, migraines can cause severe and sometimes debilitating symptoms. While these symptoms may vary from person to person, the most common include extreme sensitivity to light and sound or even nausea and vomiting. Migraines are strenuous on the body and people can be tired for days after experiencing one.

When asked why some people get migraines and others don’t, Dr. Thompson responded by saying that there can be a genetic factor involved. “If there is a family history of migraines, a person is certainly more likely to experience them,” he explained. In addition to genetic predisposition, migraine triggers can include:
  • Emotional or physical stress
  • Strong smells
  • Loud sounds
  • Changes in barometric pressure
  • Alcohol consumption
The good news is that there are many things a person can do to reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Because stress is often a trigger, basic self-care and lifestyle changes can significantly decrease the effects of migraines. Dr. Thompson suggests that patients make sure they get adequate sleep and hydration as well as maintain a healthy diet and exercise. Stress-reducing methods such as yoga, meditation, and mindfulness, can also be very helpful.

If these changes are not enough to manage a patient’s migraines, medication is the next step. Both preventative and pain-relieving options are available. For those who suffer from migraines, the team at GBMC will work with each patient to determine the best individual treatment plan.

Click here to watch the full interview.
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