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Headaches, Migraines, and Nausea

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How Are Migraines and Nausea Related? continued...

Certain groups of people are more likely to experience nausea with a migraine. This includes women and people who are prone to motion sickness. Between 5% and 20% of the general population experiences motion sickness. And movement-related nausea is experienced by about 50% of the people who get migraines.

Certain types of migraine are likely to produce symptoms of nausea or vomiting. So are some migraine variants, which are migraines without headache. These include:

  • Migraine with or without aura. Migraines without aura are more common and may cause severe head pain, vision problems, vertigo, sensitivity to light, and nausea. People who have migraines with aura typically experience warning symptoms 20 minutes to one hour before the headache begins. These warning symptoms include visual disturbances and dizziness. 
  • Abdominal migraine. Most migraines cause headaches. In rare instances, children experience migraines that cause stomach pain instead. When attacks occur, they can cause children to feel nauseated or vomit. An attack may also cause a loss of appetite. People who experience abdominal migraines as children are likely to have migraine headaches in adulthood. 
  • Benign paroxysmal vertigo. This migraine variant is most often seen in toddlers. When it occurs, the toddler will seem to suddenly lose balance and may be unable to walk. The condition often causes children to vomit. Then the vertigo resolves after a period of a few minutes to several hours. 
  • Cyclic vomiting syndrome. This troubling condition occurs most often in children. Cyclic vomiting syndrome causes people to have periods of nausea and vomiting that can last anywhere from hours to days.

The exact relationship between cyclic vomiting syndrome and migraine has not been determined. The two conditions, though, do seem to be connected. They share many of the same triggers, including stress. Additionally, many children who have cyclic vomiting syndrome go on to develop migraine headaches or have relatives who suffer from migraine headaches.

What Are the Treatment Options for Migraines and Nausea?

Many different treatment options exist for migraines with nausea. They include:

  • Lifestyle changes. Stress is a common trigger for nauseating migraines and migraine variants. Taking steps to reduce the stress in your life may help reduce the frequency or severity of attacks. Eliminating cigarettes, if you smoke, and avoiding foods that commonly trigger migraines, including chocolate and alcohol, may also help. 
  • Medications. A variety of different medications are commonly prescribed to treat migraines. These include drugs to prevent migraines, drugs to stop migraines once they've started, and drugs to alleviate migraine symptoms. The FDA has also approved a prescription device placed on the back of the head at the onset of a migraine with aura. It's called the Cerena Transcranial Magnetic Stimulator (TMS) and emits a pulse of magnetic energy into part of the brain, which may stop or lessen pain.

There are a number of anti-nausea medications your doctor may prescribe if migraines are causing you to experience nausea or vomiting. These drugs are available in a variety of forms, including pills, suppositories, syrups, and injections. Since they also have a number of side effects, you need to work with your doctor to find a product that works for you.

  • Complementary therapies. There is some evidence that biofeedback and acupuncture may help minimize migraines and related symptoms, such as nausea.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Richard Senelick, MD on August 29, 2012
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