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Migraines and Headaches

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Are Migraines Hereditary?

Yes, migraines have a tendency to be hereditary. Four out of five migraine sufferers have a family history of migraines. If one parent has a history of migraines, the child has a 50% chance of developing migraines, and if both parents have a history of migraines, the risk jumps to 75%.

 

What Are the Symptoms of Migraines?

The symptoms of migraine headaches can occur in various combinations and include:

  • A pounding or throbbing headache that often begins as a dull ache and develops into throbbing pain. The pain is usually aggravated by physical activity. The pain can shift from one side of the head to the other, or it can affect the front of the head or feel like it's affecting the whole head.
  • Sensitivity to light, noise, and odors
  • Nausea and vomiting, stomach upset, abdominal pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Sensations of being very warm or cold
  • Paleness
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Diarrhea
  • Fever (rare)

Most migraines last about four hours although severe ones can last up to a week. The frequency of migraines varies widely among individuals. It is common for a migraine sufferer to get two to four headaches per month. Some people, however, may get headaches every few days, while others only get a migraine once or twice a year.

Types of Migraines

Symptoms that signal the onset of a migraine are used to describe two types of migraine.

  • Migraine with aura (known as "classic" migraine)
  • Migraine without aura (known as "common" migraine)

An "aura" is a physiological warning sign that a migraine is about to begin. Migraines with auras occur in about 20% to 30% of migraine sufferers. An aura can occur one hour before the attack of pain and last from 15 minutes to one hour. The symptoms always last less than one hour. Visual auras include:

  • Bright flashing dots or lights
  • Blind spots
  • Distorted vision
  • Temporary vision loss
  • Wavy or jagged lines

There are also auras that can affect the other senses. These auras can be described simply as having a "funny feeling," or the person may not be able to describe the aura. Other auras may include ringing in the ears (tinnitis), or having changes in smell (such as strange odors), taste, or touch.

Rare migraine conditions include these types of neurological auras:

Hemiplegic migraine. Temporary paralysis (hemiplegia) or nerve or sensory changes on one side of the body (such as muscle weakness). The onset of the headache may be associated with temporary numbness, dizziness, or vision changes. These need to be differentiated from a stroke.

Retinal migraine. Temporary, partial, or complete loss of vision in one eye, along with a dull ache behind the eye that may spread to the rest of the head.

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