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How Do You Know If Your Migraines Are Chronic?

You have a headache to the point where the only thing that helps is covering your head with a pillow in a dark room. Pretty soon, you’re up and about like nothing ever happened. A few days later, the same thing happens but with intense stomach pain. What’s going on? Is it stress or anxiety or something else? For some people, these may be signs of chronic migraines.

What Is A Migraine?

A migraine is a kind of headache that can trigger a pulsing sensation or extreme throbbing pain, generally on one side of your head. It’s often paired with heightened sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting. A migraine can persist for hours or days, with the pain interfering with your daily activities. It’s a neurological disease that can be debilitating if not treated. According to some estimates, migraine is the 6th most disabling condition in the world.

What Causes Chronic Migraines?

No one knows for sure what causes chronic migraines, but the attacks often become more frequent over time. About 2.5% of people with episodic migraines will get chronic migraines each year. For about 2% of people with this condition, chronic migraines enter remission within a few years of becoming chronic.

Several medical conditions can increase your tendency to have migraines, including:

  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Other pain conditions like fibromyalgia or arthritis
  • Sleep disorders
  • Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome

What Are the Different Kinds of Migraine?

Migraines are a huge problem, with the American Migraine Foundation estimating that 39 million Americans experience migraines or related symptoms each year. Unfortunately, there may be an equal amount of misunderstanding about what exactly a migraine is, different kinds, and treatment options. Understanding what you’re dealing with can help your healthcare provider find medicine or therapy to manage the pain.

When people use the word migraine, they often consider it a severe headache. But what’s not readily known to most people is that a migraine is a neurological disease that includes many subtypes. Symptoms can often be treated with medicine like ketamine.

There are many different kinds of migraine, including:

  • Complicated migraine, or migraine with aura. About 25% of people with migraine also experience aura.
  • Common migraine, without aura. 
  • Migraine with brainstem aura.
  • Vestibular migraine.
  • Abdominal migraine.
  • Migraine without head pain.
  • Hemiplegic migraine.
  • Retinal or ocular migraine.
  • Ice pick headaches.
  • Cluster headaches.
  • Cervicogenic headache.
  • Menstrual migraine.
  • Cyclical vomiting migraine.
  • Medication overuse headache.

Signs and Symptoms of a Chronic Migraine

There is no such thing as a typical migraine, as the symptoms and side effects are different for everyone. You may have a higher tolerance for pain than someone else and could be waylaid by a migraine for a few hours while your friend is debilitated for a day or more. Typical symptoms may include:

  • Chronic symptoms which last for three or more months, at least 15 days each month
  • Visual disturbances like blind spots
  • You frequently see colored spots or lines
  • You see flickering or flashing lights
  • You see zig zag patterns
  • You may have slurred speech, a condition known as dysarthria
  • There may be a feeling of constant movement, also known as vertigo
  • Tinnitus, or ringing in the ears
  • Double vision (diplopia)
  • Ataxia, where you feel unsteady when walking as if you’re intoxicated
  • Temporarily being unaware of what’s happening around you
  • You have a pins and needles sensation or numbness in your arms or legs
  • A migraine may leave you temporarily blind
  • General muscle weakness all over your body
  • Being dizzy or off balance
  • You have a heightened sensitivity to smells, something known as osmophobia
  • You may have moderate to severe stomach pain lasting from two to 72 hours
  • Sickness and vomiting during attacks
  • Absence of a headache during attacks
  • You feel normal between attacks
  • You have problems communicating, such as not being able to write or understand language, which leads to difficulties with listening, reading, speaking, and writing
  • Hearing problems
  • Confusion
  • Sometimes, a migraine happens more than a week apart but habitually, usually at the same time daily, weekly, or monthly
  • Symptoms from using too much of a specific medicine
  • Symptoms caused by other headache disorders, like tension headaches

To be diagnosed, your healthcare provider will do a physical examination and may perform tests like magnetic resonance imaging or a computerized tomography scan. Many of these symptoms can be treated with medicine, rest in a dark or quiet place, avoiding certain foods or beverages or other triggers, or with ketamine

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If you are experiencing a medical or mental health emergency, please contact 911 or the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988. Do not rely on communication through this website for urgent medical needs.

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