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How is a migraine different from a normal headache?

Most Atlanta residents have likely experienced head pain that's commonly referred to as a headache. An individual may develop a headache if he or she is hungry, tired or after physical activity. For most people, however, headaches are fairly infrequent and go away after taking one dose of over-the-counter medication.

For individuals who suffer from much more severe and debilitating headaches known as migraines, a simple dose of Tylenol does little to quiet their aching and throbbing head pain. A migraine differs from a normal headache in the severity of pain, associated symptoms and, in many cases, frequency.

Individuals who experience migraines report to experiencing throbbing head pain on one or both sides which may be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and an intolerance to sound and light. The duration of a migraine may last for hours or days and some sufferers may even experience predictable cyclical stages that are each accompanied by unpleasant and disruptive symptoms.

Doctors don't know why some people develop migraines, but environmental and genetic factors are believed to play a role. Common triggers associated with the onset of a migraine include hormonal changes, stress, weather changes and certain foods and medications. Certain prescription or over-the-counter medications may be effective in helping provide some relief from symptoms.

For some migraine sufferers, their migraines are chronic and severe in nature. Additionally, some individuals who experience severe symptoms are at an increased risk of having a stroke. It's important, therefore, to see a doctor about migraine symptoms and work with a medical team to establish a treatment plan.

In some cases, the lives of individuals who suffer from migraines may be severely disrupted. The persistent and unrelenting pain may lead some individuals to spend days in bed, with the shades drawn and lights and television off. These individuals are often unable to work and may therefore qualify to receive Social Security Disability Insurance benefits.

Source: Mayo Clinic, "Migraine," 2014

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