In understanding why migraine headaches occur, it’s important to know the difference between a primary headache and a secondary headache. Where do migraine headaches fit into the equation?
Secondary headaches occur as a result of an underlying condition or injury. If you suffer a concussion, have severe allergies, or experience anxiety or stress, it’s not unusual to suffer from severe secondary headaches as one of several side effects.
Sometimes, secondary headaches are the earliest symptoms indicating a life-threatening condition, such as stroke or heart disease.
Causes of secondary headache include:
- Anxiety and depression
- Head injury
- Neck pain
- Food allergy
- High blood pressure
Chronic headaches fall into the category of primary headaches, head pain that is unrelated to any other health condition or possible injury. In order to diagnose chronic head pain as migraines or cluster headaches, your doctor will need to run some diagnostic tests to confirm the absence of a tumor, brain injury, or vascular disorder.
Indicators that point to primary headache, including migraine, are:
- Family history for migraine
- Frequent headaches that have occurred consistently for many years
- Chronic headaches, despite having a normal, healthy physical exam
- Headaches that follow a pattern
- The presence of “migraine triggers” in food, hormonal fluctuations, weather, and other environmental stimuli
Migraines are primary headaches that result from a genetic, neurological disorder. In addition to severe, debilitating head pain, symptoms of migraines also include:
- Stomach cramps
- Eye pain
- Neck pain
- Extreme sensitivity to light, sound, and scents
- Temporary visual disturbances- partial blindness, shifting, bright lights, tunnel vision
- Sudden stroke-like symptoms- partial paralysis, inability to articulate words, loss of spatial awareness, loss of consciousness
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