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What is a Migraine, and What are Headache Causes?

Medically reviewed by Maushmi Sheth
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Medically reviewed by Maushmi Sheth

Migraine is a chronic disease that manifests itself in periodic attacks of severe, often one-sided headaches.

A characteristic feature of pathology is the absence of organic causes for its occurrence, such as trauma, tumors, circulatory disorders, etc. The attack can last from 2-3 hours to 2-3 days, during which the patient often becomes almost helpless since any movement contributes to increased pain.

According to statistics, at least every tenth person on the planet suffers from migraines.

Women get sick about twice as often as men. It is associated with cyclical hormonal changes during the menstrual cycle. Usually, the disease makes itself felt up to 30-35 years old; cases of pathology in childhood are known.


What causes migraines?

The biomechanism of the development of the disease is not precisely known. There are several theories about the causes of migraine and associated symptoms, the most popular of which is neurovascular. According to this point of view, migraine begins against the activation of the trigeminal nerve nucleus, which causes spasm and then expansion of the cerebral vessels. As a result, the tissues around the arteries become swollen, leading to pain and becoming a headache cause. Moreover, the pathological process is associated with impaired serotonin metabolism.

Some scientists believe that pain occurs exclusively against the background of a sharp spasm and subsequent relaxation of the vessels, resulting in tissue edema. It has been unequivocally proven that the risk of developing the disease is significantly higher in women and in people whose parents or close relatives also suffered from migraines.


Causes headache to appear

Migraine occurs against the background of the action of various external and internal causes, each of which can cause another attack:

  • Mental and psycho-emotional stress.
  • Constant severe stress.
  • Sleep disturbances, lack of rest at night.
  • Chronic overwork (mental and physical).
  • Smoking.
  • Previous head injuries (even many years ago).
  • Excessive physical activity for a particular person.
  • Hormonal surges: puberty, menstruation, pregnancy.
  • Eating foods containing tyramine (chocolate, coffee, citrus fruits, nuts, cheese, smoked meats).
  • Drinking alcohol, especially low alcohol drinks.
  • Sharp fluctuations in atmospheric pressure, drop in air temperature.
  • Overexertion of the senses, for example, harsh sound, bright light, strong unpleasant odor, etc.
  • Staying in a hot or stuffy room, etc.

Each person has their headache causes. Most of them can be calculated, and in the future, if possible, avoided.


Symptom of migraine

Symptom of migraine

A migraine attack follows a standard scenario, which consists of several sequential stages.

  • Initial stage. A person’s mood begins to change, yawning and drowsiness appear, or, conversely, insomnia. Some people report sensitivity to noise and glare. Sometimes there is a slight numbness in one of the hands. For most patients, these symptoms are enough to know a full-fledged migraine attack is on the way. The initial stage lasts from several hours to several days; symptoms of migraines are not present in all patients.
  • Aura. It occurs against the background of spasms of the vessels of the brain. It often manifests itself in visual disturbances, like flashes in the form of spots, zigzags or lightning in front of the eyes, distortion of the contours of objects, or loss of specific fields of vision. Less often, there are taste or hearing disorders, problems with coordination of movements, etc. Aura is not observed in all patients.
  • Migraine attack. In most cases, it manifests itself as a one-sided headache that is pulsating in nature. It starts with a bit of discomfort and gradually gains strength, becoming simply unbearable. Movements, changes in body position, bright lights, and loud sounds intensify the sensations, which is why patients try to spend this time lying in a darkened room. Against the background of a headache, many patients experience nausea, vomiting, soreness in the muscles of the neck and shoulders, nasal congestion, lacrimation, chills, and even fever. The duration of the attack is individual and ranges from 2-3 hours to several days.
  • Resolution stage. At this time, the headache goes away on its own or after taking medications. Many patients fall asleep first, but within 24 hours after an attack, they may feel weak, lethargic, dizzy, and depressed. Also, symptoms of migraines such as increased sensitivity to light, sounds, and smells do not go away immediately. Less common is the opposite type of resolution stage, in which patients note increased activity.


Types of pathologies migraine

Most often, migraines are classified according to the presence of an aura and its type. The following types of disease are distinguished:

  • A classic migraine before an attack of pain occurs a typical aura with visual, auditory, olfactory, and other disorders.
  • Migraines without aura symptoms appear suddenly against the background of relative well-being; the rest of the clinical picture is typical for the disease.

Depending on the predominant symptoms of migraines, the following types of migraine are distinguished:

  • Ophthalmic is accompanied by classic visual disturbances of glare, flickering, and flare in specific areas of the visual fields.
  • The retinal disease manifests itself as complete or partial loss of vision in one eye due to impaired blood circulation in the retinal vessels.
  • Ophthalmoplegia is manifested by double vision, visual distortions, and drooping of the eyelid.
  • Basilar is accompanied by dizziness, ringing in the ears, unsteadiness when walking, and blurred speech.
  • Hemiplegic is characterized by loss of sensation and disorder of motor function of one of the arms or arms and legs on one side.
  • Cervical occurs against a background of impaired blood flow in the vertebral arteries and is accompanied by a very severe headache.
  • Apathetic pain is accompanied by speech impairments, as in stroke.
  • Abdominal additionally manifests itself as severe pain throughout the abdomen, diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting. This form is prevalent in children.
  • Status migraine is a serious condition in which two or more attacks occur in a row with less than 4 hours between them. This type also includes pain that lasts more than three days. Against the background of a migraine status, the patient develops repeated vomiting, which does not allow them to eat, drink, and take medications usually.


The most challenging condition in terms of complications is migraine status. Due to constant vomiting, the patient begins to suffer from dehydration, which can lead to the development of severe pathology:

  • Cerebral edema.
  • Convulsions.
  • Myocardial infarction.
  • Stroke.

In this regard, patients who have a suspicion of migraine status are necessarily hospitalized.


Diagnosis of migraine

Diagnosis of migraine

The patient’s headache has characteristic features that can immediately indicate symptoms of migraines. The doctor uses the following methods to diagnose:

  • Collection of complaints and anamnesis to find out the nature of the pain. Particular attention is paid to: 
  1. The time of the beginning and the end of the attack.
  2. Provoking factors.
  3. The nature of the pain.
  4. The absence or presence of an aura and its symptoms.
  5. Feelings after an attack.
  • A detailed neurological examination to determine the quality of reflexes, motor function, and sensitivity.
  • X-ray of the sella turcica to detect possible tumors.
  • Duplex examination of the vessels of the neck and brain. Allows excluding vascular causes of headache, for example, atherosclerotic plaques narrowing the lumen of the artery.
  • Ophthalmological examination with obligatory fundus examination.
  • Magnetic resonance therapy or computed tomography of the brain with contrast.
  • Magnetic resonance therapy of the cervical spine.
  • General analysis of blood and urine.
  • Ultrasound examination of the abdominal organs in the abdominal form of the disease.
  • Determination of the level of the main hormones.
  • Research of allergic status.

For the relief of migraine attacks, combined analgesics, acetylsalicylic acid, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, and special drugs, mainly from the group of triptans, are used today.

If you feel that an attack is imminent, you cannot wait. Be sure to take the medication your doctor has prescribed and try to limit the factors that aggravate the attack as much as possible.

It is essential to learn to recognize an impending migraine to reduce the number of attacks.

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Edward Medina
Edward Medina
15:34 30 Jun 22
Just such an amazing staff that makes you feel like part of their family. I’ve been going there for over 5 years now... and each visit I get the very best care and treatments that I have ever received in the 20+ years that I’ve been dealing with severe debilitating migraines. Since i started seeing them the number of my migraines has dropped from 15-20 a month to 2-3 every 3 month. I highly recommend them …they will change your life!read more
Daneisha Johnson
Daneisha Johnson
22:20 19 May 22
Dr. Askari was very kind and explained everything so I could understand. The other staff were nice as well. I would... have gave 5 stars but I was a little taken aback when I checked in and had to pay 600.00 upfront. I think that should have been discussed in a appointment confirmation call or email just so I could have been more
Jean Cooper
Jean Cooper
16:54 29 Apr 22
I love the office staff they are friendly and very helpful. Dr. JODIE is very caring and understanding to your needs... and wants to help you. I will go back. would recommend Dr. Dr. Jodie to other Patients in a heart beat. The team works well more
Linda M
Linda M
19:40 02 Apr 22
I was obviously stressed, needing to see a neurologist. The staff was so patient and Dr. Ansari was so kind. At one... point he told me to relax, we have time, when I was relaying my history of my condition. That helped ease my stress. I have seen 3 other neurologists and he was the only one who performed any assessment tests on my cognitive and physical skills. At one point I couldn't complete two assessments and got upset and cried. I was told, it's OK. That's why you're here. I was truly impressed, and super pleased with the whole experience!read more
Leslie Durham
Leslie Durham
15:05 01 Apr 22
I've been coming here for about 5 years. The staff are ALWAYS friendly and knowledgeable. The Doctors are the absolute... best!! Jodie Moore is always in such a great mood which is a plus when you are already stressed. Highly recommendedread more
Monica Del Bosque
Monica Del Bosque
14:13 25 Mar 22
Since my first post my thoughts have changed here. It's unfortunate. My doctor and PA were great, but the office staff... is horrible. They never call you back when they say they will, they misinform you, they cause you too much stress wondering what's going on, they don't keep you posted. They never answer the phone. At this point I've left four messages in the last week, and I have sent three messages. Twice from their portal and one direct email. No response. My appointment is on Monday morning at 8:30am, no confirmation on my insurance and what's going on. What the heck is going on, this is ridiculous!I've given up... the stress her office staff has put me through is just not worth it. You can do so much better, please clean house, either change out your office staff, or find a way for them to be more efficient please. You have to do something. This is not how you want to run your practice. It leaves a very bad impression on your more
Ron Buckholz
Ron Buckholz
23:32 23 Mar 22
I was actually pleasantly surprised with this visit! It took me a long time to get the appointment scheduled because no... one answers your phones EVER! After a month, I finally got in, and your staff was warm, friendly, and I was totally impressed! I feel like you will take care of my needs!read more
Steve Nabavi
Steve Nabavi
16:28 16 Mar 22
It was a nice visit. Happy staff doing all they can do to comfort the patients in a very calming environment. You ask... me they are earned a big gold star on the fridge. My only complaint they didn't give me any more
Katie Lewis
Katie Lewis
16:10 10 Feb 22
Had very positive appointments with Jodie and Dr. Sheth for my migraine care. Jodie was so fast with the injections and... has so much valuable info. I started to feel light headed during checkout and the staff was SO helpful—giving me a chair, water, and taking me into a private room until I felt better. Highly recommend this practice for migraine patients, they know what they’re doing!!read more
Joshua Martinez
Joshua Martinez
16:02 10 Dec 21
I was scheduled to be checked and just want to say that the staff was fantastic. They were kind and helpful. I was... asked many questions related to what was going on and not once did I feel as though I was being brushed off. The front desk staff was especially great in assisting me. I'm scheduled to go back for a mri and am glad that I'll be going more
Isabel Ivy
Isabel Ivy
21:42 03 Nov 21
I had such a good experience with Lone Star Neurology, Brent my MRI Tech was so awesome and made sure I was very... comfortable during the appointment. He gave me ear plugs, a pillow, leg support and blanket, easiest MRI ever lol 🤣 My 72 hour EEG nurse Amanda was also so awesome. She made sure I was take care of over the 3 days and took her time with the electrodes to make sure it was comfortable for me! Paige was also a huge help in answering all my questions when it came to my test results, and letting me know her honest opinions about how I should go forth with my more
Leslie Luce
Leslie Luce
17:37 20 Oct 21
The professionalism and want to help attitude of this office was present from the moment I contacted them. The follow... up and follow through as well as their willingness to find a way to schedule my dad was above and beyond. We visited two offices in the same day with the same experience. I am appreciative of this—we spend a lot of time with doctors and this was top notch start to more
robert Parker
robert Parker
16:38 16 Apr 21
I love going to this office. The staff is friendly and helpful. The doctor is great. I am getting the best... neurological tests and treatment I have ever had. The only reason I did not give them a 5 star rating is because it is impossible to reach a live person at the office to reschedule appointments. Every time I have tried to get through to the office it says all people are busy and I am sent to a voicemail. If they could get their phone answering fixed, I would give them a strong 5 more
MaryAnn Hornbaker
MaryAnn Hornbaker
00:26 25 Feb 21
Dr. Harney is an excellent Dr. I found him friendly , personable and thorough. I evidently am an unusual case. ... Therefore he spent a Hugh amount of time educating me. He even gave me literature to further explain my condition and how to follow up. This is something you rarely get from your doctors. So I am more than please with my doctor and his more
Roger Arguello
Roger Arguello
03:05 29 Jan 21
Always courteous, professional. The staff is very friendly and always work with you to find the best appointment time.... The care team has been great. Always taking the time to listen to your concerns and to find the best more
Margaret Rowland
Margaret Rowland
01:12 27 Jan 21
I have been a patient at Lone Star Neurology for several years. Now both my adult daughters also are patients there. I... love Jodie. She is always so prompt whether it is a teleamed call are a visit in the office. She takes the time to explain everything to me and answers all my questions. I am so blessed to have Jodie as my more
Susan Miller
Susan Miller
03:01 13 Jan 21
My husband had an accident 5 years ago and Lone Star Neurology has been such a blessing to us with my husbands care.... Jodie Moore is his provider and she is amazing! Jodie is very knowledgeable, caring, and thorough. She takes her time with you, making sure your needs are met and she is happy to answer any questions you may have. Lone Star Neurology’s patients are very lucky to have Jodie providing their care. Thank you Lone Star Neurology and especially Jodie for everything you have done for us. Jodie, you are the best!read more
Windalyn C
Windalyn C
01:32 09 Jan 21
Jodie is wonderful. She is very caring and knowledgeable. I have been to over a dozen neurologists, and none were able... to help me as much as they have here. Thanks!read more
Katie Kordel
Katie Kordel
00:40 09 Jan 21
Jodi Moore, nurse practitioner, is amazing. I have suffered from frequent, debilitating headaches for almost 20 years.... She has provided the best proactive and responsive care I have ever received. My quality of life has been greatly improved by her caring approach and tenacity in finding more
Ellie Natsis
Ellie Natsis
15:41 07 Jan 21
I have had the best experience at this neurologist's office! For over a year I have been receiving iv treatments here... each month and my nurse, Bobbie is beyond wonderful!! She's so attentive, knowledgeable, caring, and detail oriented. She makes an otherwise uncomfortable experience much more pleasant and definitely puts me at ease! She also helps me with my insurance,ordering this specialty medication and dealing with the ordering process which is no easy feat.Needless to say, she goes above a beyond in every way and I'm so grateful to this office and to Bobbie for all they do for me!read more
Matt Morris
Matt Morris
15:39 07 Jan 21
Let me start by saying that I have been coming here for years. Due to my autoimmune disease, I am in this office... once every three weeks for multiple hours at a time. The office is very clean and the staff very friendly. My only complaint would be there communication via phone. They aren't the best at responding if you leave a voicemail and expect a call back. I understand that this is prob just due to the sheer number of alls they receive daily. What I can say I like the best about the office are the people. Bobby who handles my infusions is great. I never have any issues with her setting up my infusions. She is very quick to reply to messages sent via text and if she were to leave then my whole opinion of the office may change. I also enjoy people like Matt, Lauren, and Jodi. I appreciate all that they do for me and without this team I'm not sure I would be as happy as I am to visit the office as frequently as I have to. Please ensure that these folks are recognized as they are what makes my visit to this office so tolerable :).read more
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