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Migraine and Headache Terms

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    Antiemetics: a class of medications used to treat nausea and/or vomiting

    Antihistamine: a drug that counteracts the action of histamine, an agent in the body that causes itching and flushing of the skin such as in an allergic reaction

    Anti-inflammatory: a type of medication used to decrease inflammation; this type of medication is most commonly used to treat the inflammation of arthritis and other inflammatory disorders, but can also be useful in reducing the pain of certain types of headaches.

    Arnold-Chiari deformity: a congenital abnormality in which the back part of the brain (cerebellum) and brain stem protrude down into the spinal canal through the large hole at the base of the skull where the spinal cord passes; it may be associated with many other defects, including a certain form of spina bifida, and can cause headaches.

    Aspartame: an artificial sweetener that can cause a headache in some people

    Ataxia: impaired ability to coordinate movement; this symptom sometimes suggests a condition within the brain that may be causing headaches.

    Aura: a warning sign that a migraine is about to begin; an aura usually occurs about 10 to 30 minutes before the onset of a migraine, although it can occur as early as the night before the onset. The most common auras are visual and include blurred or distorted vision; blind spots; or brightly colored, flashing or moving lights or lines. Other auras may include speech disturbances, motor weakness, or sensory changes. The duration of an aura varies, but it generally lasts less than 20 minutes.

    Barbiturate: a type of medication that causes sedation and relaxation; barbiturates may be found in combination abortive headache medications. If used more than two to three times per week, these medications can be habit-forming.

    Basilar artery migraine: a migraine that is preceded by symptoms of dizziness, pain at the base of the skull with numbness, confusion, or loss of balance; these symptoms usually occur suddenly and can be associated with vision changes, the inability to speak properly, ringing in the ears, and vomiting. This type of migraine is strongly related to hormonal changes and primarily affects young adult women.

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