Learn about Migraine Headaches

Headache Education > Migraine Headaches

Migraines are a relatively common and often debilitating type of headache, afflicting as many as 33 million Americans. One in four families have at least one migraine sufferer in the household. Twenty-five percent of migraine sufferers have at least one attack each week! Depression also affects 33% to 66% of patients with chronic migraine. If you suffer from recurring headaches that you believe are migraines, you're probably right—patients who see their physician and state they have migraine headaches are correct 99% of the time!

There are two types of migraines: Common and Classic. Sufferers of classic migraine, approximately 15% of migraine patients, experience a temporary neurological symptom called an aura. This is the primary difference between the classic and common migraines. The aura is often visual disturbance, involving geometric shapes that slowly expand and move, but can also be numbness, weakness, or speech difficulty.

Migraines are characterized by a pulsating or throbbing quality, like a heart beat, and are unilateral, meaning they occur on one side of the head. To be diagnosed as a migraine, the headache must last at least 4 hours unless they go away with a migraine specific medication. Symptoms can include nausea and sensitivity to light, smell or sounds. Migraines are often aggravated by physical activity. If you have recurrent headaches that are moderately or severely painful and have at least one of the symptoms mentioned above then they are likely migraines.

This educational content was written by Brian D. Loftus, MD, a neurologist, headache specialist and developer of iHeadache. The science and study of headaces is changing rapidly. If there is information on this page that is incorrect or needs revision, please contact us.

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