Types of Migraines

Common Migraine/Migraine without Aura

A common migraine is the type of migraine that most people experience. It is characterized by an intense, stabbing pain on one side of the head and may spread to the other side of the head. The pain can be so severe that it causes nausea. You may also experience a tender scalp, dizziness, runny nose, diarrhea or constipation, “gut” pain, a dry mouth, and weakness or a “pins and needles” feeling in parts of your body. The pain can also cause shaking and an
intolerance of any light and sound. Sufferers of the common migraine may also experience a prodrome.

A prodrome is a warning that occurs several hours or even a day before an attack. These warnings may include a ringing in the ears, a sudden burst of energy, a craving for a specific food, excessive yawning, mood changes, or a cold feeling. The signals depend entirely on the person who gets the headache. Often, a person in the middle of a full-blown migraine attack will feel totally out of control and panicked. The pain is overwhelming, and it is even difficult to think. Common migraines can last from a few hours to several days and occur with a greater frequency than classic migraines.

Classic Migraine/Migraine with Aura

A classic migraine includes many of the same symptoms as a common migraine. A classic migraine is different, however, from a common migraine because there is a definite “signal” that the migraine is coming. This signal comes as an aura, which is a visual disturbance that begins about ten to thirty minutes before an attack, or the onset of a migraine. A person experiencing an aura may see flashing lights, spots, stars, wavy lines, color splashes, or waves in front of his or her eyes. The images may seem
to shimmer, sparkle, or flicker.

Other people experiencing an aura may have blind spots, tunnel vision, or lose their sight for a short time. Usually the visual problems are worse in one eye. All classic migraine sufferers experience an aura. Lauren experienced an aura when she saw un-explainable points of light while she was in her bedroom. Lauren also experienced a prodrome. Hours before the migraine hit Lauren, she wanted pizza, a food she didn’t like very much. This craving was Lauren’s prodrome. During a classic migraine you may also experience weakness in an arm or leg, difficulty pronouncing words, confusion or dizziness, a tingling or “pins and needles” feeling in the face or hands, runny nose, sweating, and the need to urinate frequently.

Some people also get swelling in the ankles and wrists, a dry mouth, abdominal pain, and diarrhea. A classic migraine may last from several minutes to one to two days. When the migraine is gone, most people feel very tired and drained.

Migraine Equivalent

A migraine equivalent has all the same symptoms as a classic migraine, including stomach pains, nausea, vomiting, confusion, mood changes, and auras or other sight problems, except there is no head pain. People experiencing a migraine equivalent do not get the intense head pain that is the standard for other migraines. Children and adolescents are struck more than adults with this condition. Headache specialists have theorized that patients with unexplained pain in the body, dizziness, and fever might be having a type of headache-free migraine or migraine equivalent. Young adults who have problems with migraine equivalents tend to experience classic or common migraines later in life.

Exertional Headache

This type of migraine occurs suddenly and is brought on by activities that increase the pressure inside your head. These activities include lifting weights, running, diving, sneezing, coughing, bending, and even sexual intercourse. The pain of an exertional headache starts at the beginning of the activity, and usually lasts a few minutest although it can last up to a day. Some activities are more likely than others to bring on exertional headaches.

people who have recently begun a work-out routine also tend more than others to get exertional headaches. There is a difference between benign exertional headaches and exertional headaches. If a doctor says you have a benign exertional headache, that means there is nothing life threatening about the headache. Other types of exertional headaches may indicate that there is something more to the pain. About 10 percent of exertional headaches indicate a problem. The remaining 90 percent of exertional headaches are benign and, even though they can be excruciating, are not a threat.

An exertional headache is not very common. Benign exertional headaches occur in a very small number of migraine sufferers. They are more prevalent in people who suffer from different kinds of migraines.

Familial Hemiplegic Migraine

In addition to the stabbing head pain of a migraine, familial hemiplegic migraine sufferers experience a condition known as hemiplegia, or paralysis on one side of the body. The paralysis is usually temporary, but it may take days or weeks to recover full control of your body. These people may also suffer from vision problems, a general feeling of dizziness, or a feeling that the room is spinning. A hemiplegic migraine is very rare, and evidence shows that it tends to be genetic.

Basilar Artery Migraine

Basilar artery migraine received its name because it involves a disorder of a major brain artery. This type of
migraine is usually preceded by an aura. The piercing head pain associated with a basilar artery migraine is ally felt at the back of the head and on both sides. People who are struck with a basilar artery migraine may also suffer before or during the headache from poor muscular coordination, double vision, a ringing in the ears, hearing loss, slurred speech, numbness in the arms or legs, and the feeling that the room is spinning. Basilar artery migraines may cause a brief (one to ten minutes) loss of consciousness.

Basilar artery migraine is more common in women than men and more common in teenagers than adults. This type of migraine is thought to be related to a woman’s menstrual cycle. The sufferer feels an overwhelming desire to sleep and sleep does actually help. Basilar artery migraine is not a common type of migraine.

Ophthalmoplegic Migraine

Ophthalmoplegic migraine tends to attack people under thirty years of age. This rare type of migraine involves many sight problems. The pain from an ophthalmoplegic migraine is excruciating and severe, and normally occurs on one side of the head. There is often pain around one eye, a droopy eyelid, and double vision. When the head pain subsides, a sufferer may find that the muscles around the eye are paralyzed. The paralysis will usually correct itself after several days or weeks, but with repeated attacks it may take longer and longer to recover from the paralysis. An ophthalmoplegic migraine can be a very frightening type of migraine and is often mistaken for an aneurysm or a brain tumor.

Status Migrainous

Although a status migrainous headache does not signal an underlying disease, the pain and nausea are so severe that sufferers are most often hospitalized to bring the pain under control. A status migrainous begins much like other migraines, with powerful, throbbing pain on one side of the head. What sets this migraine apart from others is the length of the attack; a status migrainous can last more than seventy-two hours and even up to a week or more.
Nausea and diarrhea may also be present during the entire headache and can cause severe dehydration. Status migrainous is a very rare and a very intense type of headache. People who get this type of headache often seem to be anxious and depressed before the headache strikes.

Dysphrenic Migraine

Many people who are prone to migraines are unable to concentrate or think very clearly during an attack, but people who suffer from a dysphrenic migraine are actually experiencing a severe mental disturbance. They may have amnesia, or a loss of memory, or be confused, agitated, and disoriented. These symptoms may occur with or without the pain of the headache. A dysphrenic migraine is not common.

Some of the migraine types discussed in this chapter are quite common, and some are a little more rare. Whatever kind of migraine or head pain it is that afflicts you, help is available. Keep reading to learn about other types of headaches and how to find relief.

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