Headache or Migraine?
Recognizing the symptoms and sensations that matter.
If you’ve been in the middle of a terrible headache, you likely had one and only one interest: getting rid of it. But if you experience headaches regularly, it’s important to take them seriously even after the pain has stopped.
“Most everyone gets headaches, and the most common is a tension-type headache,” explains Dr. Teshamae Monteith, head of the headache division at the University of Miami Health System. “There are many sources that could contribute to headaches, including abnormalities of our head, neck, face, scalp, and temporomandibular joint dysfunction of the jaw, commonly known as TMJ, that cause discomfort.”
Migraines, on the other hand, can be much more disabling, says Monteith.
“Migraines can occur in four phases, and last from four to 72 hours,” she says. “You’ll feel a severe throbbing or pulsing pain on one or both sides of your head. Sensory disturbances also can occur, which may be more debilitating than the pain itself.”
These sensory disturbances vary widely from patient to patient but may include extreme sensitivity to light, sounds, odors, and movement. You may smell things that are not actually present like smoke, burning, or certain foods.
The greatest challenge with migraines? Scientists still don’t exactly know what causes them.
“We’re learning more each day through research,” adds Monteith. “They are a genetic disorder and run in families. They are related to sex hormones — women are three times as likely to experience them. And they are likely a chronic brain dysfunction involving chemical or connection disturbances in the neurons, the basic unit of our brains. Thankfully, we have new FDA-approved treatments available and promising new drug therapies on the way. There are also preventive lifestyle approaches and natural treatments we offer to anyone needing assistance.”
Want to know if your headache might be a migraine? Call 305-243-3100 for an appointment.
Written by a staff writer at UHealth.