Migraine Vs. Headache: What Is The Difference?

Lifestyle & Health

When there is pressure in the head, it is hard to differentiate whether you are experiencing a headache or migraine. Many people mistakenly refer to a traditional headache as a migraine. Nevertheless, there are significant differences between these two conditions. The most common type of headache is a tension headache, which is most often confused with a migraine. Only a clear understanding of the differential diagnosis of these two nosologies will help a doctor to determine the right direction of treatment. Below are 8 basic criteria that can help a doctor give a precise diagnosis.

1. Definition

Headaches are often secondary manifestations and are actually a symptom of some other diseases (arterial hypertension, brain tumor, head injury, meningitis, hydrocephalus, epilepsy). A migraine is a separate neurological disease, which is manifested in the form of repeated headache attacks along with other symptoms.

2. Gender peculiarities

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Women are more likely to have migraines (according to statistical data, women suffer migraines 3 times more often than men). The possibility of the occurrence of tension headaches is equal in both sexes.

3. Pain localization

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A migraine is characterized by hemicrania (pain is expressed only in one half of the head - right or left). Tension headaches are often diffuse and do not have a clear localization.

4. Intensity of pain

A tension headache can be mild or moderate, while a migraine is manifested by severe and extremely painful headache attacks.

5. Triggers (provoking factors)

The main factors that can provoke a migraine include:

  • certain foods (red wine, chocolate, dairy products, citrus fruits, products containing gluten);
  • weather changes;
  • certain smells;
  • sleep deprivation;
  • changes in the hormonal activity of the body (during pregnancy or the menstrual cycle).

The onset of a tension headache is usually due to stress or anxiety and is associated with an increase in the tonus of the neck muscles.

6. Clinical symptoms

A migraine is a neurological disease that manifests itself in a variety of symptoms:

  • a one-sided headache predominant in the temporal region;
  • increased sensitivity of the body to loud sounds and bright light (hyperacusis and photophobia);
  • dizziness;
  • nausea and vomiting;
  • extreme fatigue;
  • mood lability;
  • inhibition of gastric peristalsis.

Generally, a tension headache is not accompanied by the above-listed symptoms.

7. Duration of attacks

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Classic migraine attacks can last from several minutes to several hours, while a tension headache may last for 3 or more days.

8. Genetic predisposition

According to different studies, genetics does influence susceptibility to migraines. American researchers discovered a typical genetic mutation in people with migraines. Such a dependence was not found for tension headaches.

Pain is a subjective sensation that is difficult to assess by any clinical or laboratory methods of examination. A correct description of complaints to the doctor is the key to successful and effective treatment of the disease.

Source: Healthline, Americanmigrainefoundation

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This article is purely for informational purposes. Do not self-medicate, and in all cases consult a certified healthcare professional before using any information presented in the article. The editorial board does not guarantee any results and does not bear any responsibility for harm that may result from using the information stated in the article.