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Migraine is a type of headache with pain that can last from four hours to 3 days. The pain is usually moderately to severely intense, pulsating, and often occurring on one side of the head. Telltale signs may be nausea and/or vomiting, and sensitivity to light and sound Change in vision or hearing, called aura, may come just before or just as the migraine begins.

Migraines may be triggered by specific factors such as:

  • Physical exertion or activity
  • Stress
  • Hormonal change
  • Skipping meals
  • Sleep disturbances and sleeping late
  • Weather changes
  • Perfume or odor
  • Neck pain
  • Lights
  • Alcohol
  • Smoke
  • Heat
  • Food/diet

Treatments fall into two categories: acute and preventative

  • Acute medications, which are available over the counter or by prescription, are taken as needed to stop the pain when it begins.
  • Preventative (prophylactic) medications are prescribed to prevent headaches before they start.

Other types of headache

  • Tension-type headache: this is the most common type of primary headache, affecting anywhere between 30% and 78% of the general population.
  • Cluster headache: this is defined as an attack of severe pain on 1 side of the head, lasting 15 minutes to 3 hours and occurring from once every other day to 8 times a day. A cluster headache may be associated with forehead and facial sweating, restlessness or agitation, nasal congestion, and other symptoms.
  • Other primary headache: headaches in this category include stabbing headache, coughing-related headache, headache brought on by physical exertion, thunderclap headache, and other headaches that cannot be described as migraine, tension or cluster.