Five signs it’s not just a headache

April 22, 2021

Not the best way to tickle your fancy, but do you know that 12 in 100 Americans suffer migraines? Yes, but there is something even more unfortunate than that. It is the tendency in us to mistake a debilitating migraine for a regular come-and-go headache.

What if I told you migraine was the 6th most disabling illness in the world? Wouldn’t you be keener in identifying it from a headache so that you can treat it with the urgency (and amount of care) that it requires?

There is a sharp distinction between headache and migraine. Let me tell you five things that indicate that innocuous headache you think you have may actually be a devastating migraine.

Do you have auras?

Auras are highly suggestive of migraines. 1 in 4 people having migraines experience auras. These auras are distortions in visual perception. There are cases where aura precedes migraines.

People with auras tend to see flashing lights or wavy lines. Auras are temporal, and their intensity could reduce within 40-60 minutes. But auras – associated with migraines – could extend visual distortions.

You could be feeling numbness in one of your limbs. If you are not necessarily numb, you could have the feeling of needles and pins being pierced into one of your limbs.

Auras indicative of migraine are also demonstrated in jerky movements that could appear like the patient limping.

These conditions don’t instantaneously jump on you. No, there is usually a progressive accumulation of these symptoms.

Are your moods changing sporadically?

Six in 10 migraine patients experience mood swings. These swings can either come after the onset of the migraine headache or before it.

The variant that comes after the migraine in medical parlance is termed postdrome. If before, it is termed prodrome.

These mood swings can be typified by the patient having increased nervousness, unexplained boisterousness, difficulty focusing, and trouble thinking.

How about Alice in Wonderland Syndrome (AIWS)?

As suggestive of the name, this neurological condition triggers altered perceptions, especially insight. People with AIWS would perceive their body as different in size than it is in real life. This flows into the narrative of AIWS patients generally seeing things smaller than they are.

AIWS are not unconnected with migraines. Given its shared similarity with auras, medical practitioners are examining the possibility of it being a migraine aura.

Like in auras, people with AIWS would see 3D objects as flat. They would colors brighter than they are. When they view things, the colors appear tilted to a side, while stationary objects appear to be moving.

Hallucinations are also symptoms of AIWS triggered by migraines. What more, people tend to appear stretched out. If you are experiencing this with head pain, it is likely a migraine.

Exaggerated light sensitivity is indicative of a migraine

This is one of the most prevalent symptoms of migraine. Termed photophobia, 80 percent of migraine patients experience heightened sensitivity to light. Scientists are currently exploring the origin of this phobia, with the optic nerve highly suspected of being the starting point.

Photophobia comes in differing intensities, depending on the migraine. In some extreme cases, darkened sunglasses could be needed.

Aside from photophobia, people with migraines also experience exaggerated sensitivity to loud noise. This equivalent is termed phonophobia. Here loud sounds produce significant discomforts in the individual, as his tolerance to sound is well subdued.

Supposedly negligible sounds like a ticking clock, the sound of someone chewing, or even utensils clanking together can produce intense irritation for individuals with phonophobia.

When photophobia and phonophobia are jointly present in a migraine attack, you see the individual is inclined to withdrawing into more silent and darker environments.

Are you experiencing pain in your face?

Facial pain is one primary reason why migraine headaches are misdiagnosed as tension or sinus headaches. People with migraine headaches commonly experience pain in their sinus and their necks and jaws.

An advanced migraine attack can trigger hypersensitivity to touch on just any area of your face. Scientists are exploring the possibility of nerve inflammation in the face region.

There you go. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, chances are more solid that your supposed headache is a migraine. Be quick to take restorative actions like pain relievers, antidepressants, or just seeing a doctor.