How to Identify Migraine from Other Headaches?

By Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Table of Contents


Migraines and headaches are two different types of headaches that can both be incredibly painful. However, they are also different in terms of their causes and treatments. If you’re experiencing a headache, remember that it is not always a migraine.

In this article, we’ll take a closer look at the differences between migraine and headaches and how to get the best treatment for your specific needs.

A migraine is a common type of headache that can last up to 72 hours. They are characterized by severe headaches on one side of the head, often accompanied by nausea and vomiting. There is a lot of confusion surrounding the two terms, headache and migraine.

Migraine is a common and potentially severe headache disorder that can require targeted treatment. When you have a headache it is essential to identify the type of headache as three are a number of headaches that can recur.

Headache: Definition

A headache is a common type of pain that can occur anywhere on the head. They can be mild or moderate in severity, and they can last from a few hours to a few days.

They can range in severity, but most headaches are mild and don’t require medical attention.

A headache is a common type of pain that affects the head. They can range in severity and are caused by a variety of factors, but they are usually just a nuisance. If you’re experiencing a headache, it’s important to take steps to relieve it as quickly as possible.

Headache Types

Have you ever had a headache? If so, you’re not alone. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, approximately 80% of Americans will experience a headache at least once in their lives.

But what is a headache exactly? And more importantly, how can you tell if it’s a migraine or just a regular old headache? Keep reading to find out!

There are two forms of headache: primary and secondary. The main symptom of primary headaches is the headache itself. Secondary headaches may have additional symptoms, and the underlying cause of the headache is usually treatable.

Primary headache types


A primary form of headache, migraine is characterized by periods of moderate to severe pain in one or both temples, accompanied by nausea and sensitivity to light.

Tension-Type Headaches

Tension-type headaches typically involve a dull ache at the base of the skull, which may be accompanied by tightness in the muscles of the neck and shoulders.

A tension headache can be painful and can make it difficult to concentrate or sleep.

Cluster Headache

Cluster headaches are extremely painful and generally last for several hours at a time. They can occur once every two weeks or more often, but they tend to last up to eight days. Cluster headaches are a type of headache that occurs in clusters, which can last from minutes to days at a time. They are often referred to as “suicide headaches” because of the severity of the pain and the risk of suicide associated with them.

Cluster headaches are rare, and only about 1 in every million people experiences them. If you or someone you know experiences cluster headaches, there is help available. They are usually severe enough that people need to take painkillers and rest during their episodes.

Hemicrania Continua (HC)

Hemicrania continuum is a rare condition, and it’s usually hereditary. If you’re one of the lucky ones who doesn’t have HC, don’t worry; you’re not missing out on anything! But if you do have HC, you may be wondering what to expect in your lifetime.

The symptoms of hemicranial headache are:

The patient appears to have had a headache on the same side of the head or face for more than three months. Though the severity may fluctuate, the pain might not go away completely.

  •  Redeye , tearing
  • Drooping eyelid
  • Nasal congestion
  • Excess sweating
  • Pupil constriction
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sensitivity to light and sound

Hemicrania continua can be chronic or remitting. The major difference between the two forms of headache is the remission period.

Chronic HC has daily symptoms, whereas remitting HC has a remission period of weeks or months.

Thunderclap Headache

Subarachnoid hemorrhage is a condition that occurs when bleeding occurs in the subarachnoid space, which is the space between the arachnoid membrane and the pia mater. The bleeding can be caused by a ruptured blood vessel within the brain, spinal cord, or other anatomical site. It’s very rare in people under 35 years old, but can occur at any age.

The symptoms of subarachnoid hemorrhage include:

  • An explosive-type headache that feels like a thunderbolt to the head.
  • nausea,
  • vomiting
  • confusion
  • loss of consciousness
  • seizures
  • vision changes (seeing stars)
  • speech difficulties, and body weakness (one side of the body).

It is necessary to seek medical attention immediately if you are experiencing the above symptoms.

Sinus Headache

The sinuses are a set of organs located behind the nose, in the middle and base of the skull. They are lined with mucous membranes and filled with fluid (preventing infections).

A sinus headache occurs when there is swelling in one or more sinuses. The pain may be mild to severe and can last for several days or weeks. The pain may feel like pressure behind the eyes or temples, and it may radiate to the back of the head or neck. It may also be accompanied by a stuffy nose or headache.

Symptoms include:

  • pressure behind the eyes or temples
  • sensitivity to light and noise
  • headaches that occur at rest
  • Nasal congestion, rhinoeehoa

Secondary Headaches

“Secondary headache” is a term used to describe any type of headache that occurs as a result of another condition. This can include headaches caused by conditions such as sinus infections, eye problems, dehydration, anemia, and ear infections.

Below are some common secondary headache disorders.

  • External compression headaches
  • Medication overuse headaches (rebound headaches)
  • Ice cream headaches (brain freeze)

Migraine: What is It?

Migraines are a common type of headache that usually occurs on one side of the head. They can be painful and can last for hours, sometimes days. Migraines can be difficult to diagnose and can be difficult to treat, but there are things that you can do to help manage them.

Migraines are a common condition that affects about 39 million people in the United States. There are many types of migraines, including the classic migraine, which is defined as “a headache with an aura that precedes the headache by at least 1 hour.”

The primary causes of migraines are thought to be vascular and neurological disorders, but there are some environmental triggers that can cause migraines as well. Women tend to have more migraines than men, but this may be due to differences in hormone levels or genetics.

Nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light or sound may accompany with migraine headache. These symptoms usually last less than 72 hours without treatment, but they can sometimes last up to four days or longer.

Other Symptoms of Migraine

  • Visual symptoms include a halo, flashing lights, and sparkles.
  • Eye symptoms: watery eyes, nasal congestion
  • Neck stiffness
  • Numbness and tingling sensations
  • Diahrroea
  • Food Cravings
  • Yawning
  •  Irritability

Types of Migraine

Migraine without aura (common): The most common type of migraine, it manifests as a throbbing pain in the head. However, this pain can occur without an aura. It can be caused by a variety of things, including stress, anxiety, or certain medications.

When it comes to migraines without an aura, you may feel a sudden onset of pain in your head or face.

This type of migraine is characterized by symptoms such as visual disturbances, numbness, tingling, pins and needles sensations, speech difficulties, and irritability.

The aura may be visual, sensory, or motor. Aura symptoms occur before the headache and include:

Visual: flickering lights, zigzag lines, blind spots

Tingling or numbness in the face, arms, or legs are examples of sensory symptoms.

motor: a weakness on one side of the body

Hemiplegic Migraine

Hemiplegic migraines are a rare type of migraine that occurs when one side of the body is affected more than the other. It is the most severe type of migraine, and it comes with a whole host of symptoms. You’re not just suffering from a headache; you’re also experiencing dizziness and numbness in your face and limbs, sometimes accompanied by vision problems. This can cause problems with balance and coordination, making it difficult to walk or move around.

Abdominal Migraine

It is a type of migraine that occurs in children aged 3–10 years. It is associated with nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea, and no apparent headache is complained of.

Phases of Migraine

Migraines are a cyclic condition. This means that you may have different phases of migraines throughout your life and that the severity of each migraine episode differs from one to the next.

Migraine phases can be divided into three main categories: prodrome, aura, and headache. An aura is an experience that happens before or during a migraine attack, and a headache is the pain associated with the migraine itself.

Premonitory Phase

A prodrome is a period before a migraine starts, lasting anywhere from 10 minutes to several hours. This premonitory phase is the period leading up to a migraine headache. During this phase, you may experience symptoms such as nausea, fatigue, and sensitivity to light.

This phase can last up to 2 hours before the actual headache occurs, and can be accompanied by a number of different symptoms. This phase can be frightening for those who experience it, but it’s important to know what’s going on so that you can take the best possible care of yourself.

Aura Phase

During this phase, you may see flashing lights or colors; feel tingling sensations around your head; hear sounds that seem to come from outside your body (for example, someone’s name being called); see objects moving or spinning; feel numbness in some areas of your body; and have difficulty speaking clearly or swallowing water.

Headache Phase

Headache pain typically comes on suddenly and gets worse over time while keeping its intensity level constant. This phase lasts up to four hours on average, although some people experience very severe pain that lasts for up to 72 hours.

Post drome Phase

The postdrome phase is the period following a migraine when symptoms can last for up to 72 hours. This phase can be frustrating for migraine sufferers as they struggle to return to normal life. It can last from 2 to 6 hours. During this time, you may feel exhausted and depressed. You may also experience blurred vision and a tingling sensation around your eyes or face.


Migraines can be triggered by a variety of factors, including weather, food allergies, and hormonal changes. But there are some things you should be aware of that could actually be triggering your migraines.

  • Stress: Studies have shown that stress is a common migraine trigger. If you find yourself getting more frequent headaches when you’re under pressure, it might be time to ease up on your workload and take some time off from work.
  •  Alcohol: Drinking alcohol can increase the chances of developing a migraine by affecting the way your body processes certain chemicals in your brain and bloodstream. If you drink alcohol frequently or heavily, it’s probably best to limit how much you drink while avoiding alcohol altogether if you want to avoid triggering migraines.
  • Hot weather: Prolonged exposure to hot weather can increase your chances of getting a migraine or other type of headache by stressing out your blood vessels and causing them to expand rapidly, which can lead to pain in the head area (including migraines).
  • Chocolate: Dark chocolate has been linked with an increased risk for migraines; however, this link is not completely understood by scientists yet.
  • Hormonal changes :Menstruation, Pregnancy, and Menopause in females is often related to migraine.
  • Food that contains MSG: MSG is an amino acid often found in many processed foods, including dairy products and meats. It’s not harmful in small amounts, but when you eat it in large quantities, your brain tells itself to produce more glutamate, which causes inflammation in the brain and triggers migraines.
  • Foods with artificial sweeteners (Aspartame)
  • Cheese
  • Mental instability (stress, anxiety)
  • Nitrates
  • Physical and sexual activity
  • Salty, processed foods
  • Strong odors

Risk Factors

Migraines are a common type of headache that can occur once in a while or can be frequent. It has been proven that there are several risk factors that can contribute to a person getting a migraine. These risk factors include:

  • Age: The age of onset for most people is 35–45 years.
  • Gender: Females are more likely to suffer from migraines than males. This may be due to hormonal changes during puberty or some other unknown reason.
  •  Family history: Having a parent or sibling with migraines increases your chances of getting them yourself by almost 50%. This is because genetics plays such an important role in determining how prone someone is to getting migraines themselves. However, there are many other factors that can contribute as well, so don’t feel too bad if this applies to you!

Patients with mood disorders are also at risk of developing migraines.

Patients with sleep disorders are also at risk of developing migraines.

Treatment for Headaches

If you’re one of the millions of Americans who suffer from headaches, you know that there’s nothing worse than a migraine. These painful headaches can come on suddenly and can last up to 72 hours, making it difficult to go about your daily life. I

Migraines are a type of headache that can be very painful and difficult to treat. The best way to treat it is with prevention and by taking medications promptly once symptoms have started.

Over-the-Counter Medications

The painkillers can be bought over the counter to reduce migraine pain.

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol)
  • NSAIDs (Aspirin, Advil, Motrin, Aleve)
  • Magnesium supplements too can help to relieve the initial pain.

Lifestyle Changes.

Migraine sufferers can take medication to relieve pain and reduce the frequency of their attacks.

But there are several lifestyle changes you can make to help prevent migraines:

  •  Maintain a healthy weight with regular exercise and healthy eating habits.
  •  Reduce stress levels by getting enough sleep, using relaxation techniques, and practicing breathing exercises regularly.
  •  Exercise regularly as it helps to regulate blood pressure, improve circulation, reduce stress levels, and boost mood.
  • Manage your stress level by learning how to manage your emotions using different techniques such as meditation or yoga exercises.
  • Proper Hydration: drinking at least 8 cups per day.

Prescription Medication

There are three types of migraine medications:

Ergot drugs

Ergot drugs work by blocking the release of chemicals that cause migraines.

They’re generally considered safe for long-term use but may cause heart problems if taken in high doses over a long period of time or if they aren’t taken regularly enough


These work by constricting blood vessels in the brain, which increases blood flow and may help relieve some symptoms associated with migraine attacks.

Triptans can be used alone or combined with other migraine treatments to increase effectiveness.


Each type has its own benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to consider all options before jumping into treatment mode. Beta-blockers slow the heart rate and constrict the vessels, which may reduce blood flow to the brain during an attack.


Migraines are a common type of headache that can occur at any time of the day or night. If you’re experiencing a migraine, it’s important to take steps to prevent it from happening again.

Many people with migraines have learned to avoid certain foods, drinks, and activities that cause them pain. These may include: caffeine, alcohol, foods high in fat, hot or spicy foods and beverages, etc.

  •  Sleeping healthy at least 8 hours per day.
  •  Meditation and breathing
  •  Exercise regularly
  •  Take preventive medicine

When to Visit the Doctor

Migraines are a common type of headache that can occur at any time in life. If you’re experiencing a migraine, it’s important to see a healthcare professional to make sure that you’re taken care of.


TeleHealthDoc articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Dr. Pallavi Sharma

Dr. Pallavi Sharma is one of Melbourne’s best, well respected cosmetic doctors and aims to provide longstanding anti-aging benefits for her clients. With over 11 years experience in Performing cosmetic procedures, Dr. Sharma has lectured medical professionals regarding cosmetic treatments and is heavily involved in providing up to date cosmetic treatments to her clients and friends.
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