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Jeff Doctor Explains the Many Kinds of Migraines



Migraines come in many varieties. Neurologist Stephen Silberstein, MD, director of the Jefferson Headache Center, says knowing which kind you are experiencing can help determine how best to treat it. The types of migraines are:

  • Thunderclap headache – This is a sudden onset of an acute headache. It could be a migraine, but could also be a brain hemorrhage. If you experience this, seek emergency care.
  • Vestibular migraine – These are characterized by symptoms of vertigo (dizziness, feeling off-balance); there could be very little actual headache.
  • Chronic migraine – If you suffer headaches on 15 or more days a month, you have chronic migraines, and need to see a neurologist.
  • Abdominal migraine – Striking children, these migraines are characterized by moderate to severe soreness around the belly button, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite. Most children outgrow them, but will likely develop migraine-type headaches later in life.
  • Ocular migraine – Visual disturbances such as flashing lights announce the onset of these migraines; it is a warning sign that you’re about to get a migraine headache, and should take medication.
  • Hemiplegic migraine – This rare form of migraine announces itself with stroke-like symptoms: weakness on one side of your body, vision changes, confusion, and nausea. For any headache that is new or different, seek urgent care; if you know you’re susceptible to hemiplegic migraines, work with a headache specialist to determine a treatment plan.
  • Exercise-induced migraine – For some people, exercise triggers migraines. If you are susceptible, take an ibuprofen and drink a lot of water before hitting the gym.
  • Retinal migraine – This causes temporary blindness in one eye, and can be a warning that a headache will soon follow. However, it may also be a sign of a serious underlying health problem, so contact your doctor ASAP!

Silberstein says that if you suffer migraines, evaluation by a specialist can help determine the best course of treatment.