If you think your “really bad headaches” aren’t migraines, you may want to take a closer look at your symptoms—especially if you’re a woman.
More than half of all migraine sufferers are never diagnosed, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. And according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, migraines are three times more common in women than in men. Crazy, right?
By taking a few minutes to learn about migraines, you can get an idea if you’re dealing with the condition and get treatment that will actually give you relief. Read on for all the signs and symptoms you may be overlooking, plus background on why migraines happen in the first place.
So, what exactly are migraines, and why do people get them?
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, a migraine is a brain disease that causes various uncomfortable symptoms that can last anywhere from four hours up to three days. (Yup, three freakin’ days!)
While the exact cause of migraine headaches is unknown, the Migraine Research Foundation says that both genes and environmental factors likely play a role. We also know that the symptoms are brought on by a change in chemical activity that impacts both the central and peripheral nervous systems, explains Jessica Ailani, M.D., director of the MedStar Georgetown Headache Center in Washington D.C.
Eek! How can I tell if I’m having a migraine or just a tension or sinus headache?
Migraine headaches can cause various symptoms before, during, and after the attack. Not all people experience all symptoms, and your migraine may be entirely different than a friend’s.
Symptoms can come on gradually or suddenly. Sometimes they start overnight, causing people to wake up with a migraine, but not always, the Mayo Clinic notes. Basically, every migraine headache is slightly different, and there’s no cut and dry list of symptoms that pertain to everyone. (Annoying, we know!)
All that said, there are a number of ways migraines differ from regular headaches. If you experience any of these symptoms, you’re likely suffering from a migraine and not something that'll go away by popping some Advil.