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Migraine and Headache Terms

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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.

Biofeedback: a method used to help a person learn stress-reduction skills by providing information about muscle tension, heart rate, and other vital signs as the person attempts to relax; it is used to learn total body relaxation and also to gain control over certain bodily functions that cause tension and physical pain.

Botox injections: the botulinum toxin is a toxin produced by bacteria that causes temporary muscle paralysis; it is commonly used for cosmetic reasons, such as treating wrinkles. Botox has been FDA approved to prevent chronic migraine headache in adults. The agency defines chronic headache as having a migraine headache 15 or more days per month with headaches lasting four hours a day or longer. To treat chronic headache, Botox is given about every three months as multiple injections around the head and neck.

Bruit: (pronounced bru-ee) a noise heard by a health care provider through a stethoscope that may indicate the blockage of blood flow through an artery.

Caffeine: a stimulating ingredient found in coffee, tea, chocolate, and cola beverages; caffeine is also a common ingredient used in combination medications for relief of headaches.

CAT scan: see computed axial tomography

Chronic: ongoing or occurring over an extended period of time; a chronic headache occurs at least every other day or 15 days per month for at least six months.

Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS): a condition of incapacitating fatigue; it may be associated with migraines.

WebMD Medical Reference

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