One out of 7 Americans live with migraine headaches. If you are part of the same group, then you know very well how these severe headaches can take over your life. Over time, most people learn ways to manage their symptoms, and some even figure out how to stop them on their pathways, but what happens when your migraines start showing with different symptoms?
To help you determine whether your migraines are a sign of a bigger problem or are something else entirely, Insider asked some health professionals to share the signs you should be aware of.
You have a sharp pain feeling that feels like the worst headache of your life.
"Migraines often have a prodrum or aura that warns you of what's going to happen," said Dr. Robert Carson, Ph.D., a professor of neurology and pediatrics at Vanderbilt University and adviser to Medvedev.
He explained that the immediate onset of "worst headache of your life" may indicate a new structural problem leading to a headache, such as a torn brain blood vessel.
You have a headache with fever.
A severe headache or migraine with fever is never something to ignore.
"A headache with different characteristics than your typical migraine, but also associated with stiff neck heat may indicate meningitis," Carson said. Since bacterial meningitis can be fatal, Carson said getting this type of headache was tested by an important doctor.
You have neurological symptoms you've never had before.
If you experience neurological symptoms such as weakness in the face or weakness of the hand during one of your migraines, you should get to your doctor right away. Carson said that quick, acronym medical experts used to describe a stroke, looking at andAcial weakness,AWeakness rm, sDifficulty, and time (both indicate the start time and try to be as short as possible of the time to get medical care).
You have a headache that makes you sleep or worse in the morning.
When your head is throbbing, and you know migraine is going to happen, crawling into bed and closing eyes is often the best way to help relieve some of the symptoms. But if you experience new headaches that wake you up from sleep or worse in the morning, Carson said it might indicate increased intracranial pressure.
"If something affects the flow of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, this pressure can rise while you're lying, which may indicate a structural cause of a headache like tumor," he explained.
You have persistent headaches with visual changes.
Ask someone with a history of migraines what the visual aura is, and they are likely to describe seeing flashing lights or zigzag lines.
"A visual aura is part of many peoples of migraines," Carson said. But if you experience a change in persistent headache and deteriorating vision, especially a quick worsening of the vision, Carson said it might indicate something that causes increased intracranial pressure.
"It could be due to an increase or so-called pseudotumor, an increase in intracranial pressure due to plumbing problems that helps drain fluid from the spinal brain," he explained. If this sounds like you, you should see your doctor right away.
You have dramatic personality changes.
If you experience a sudden and drastic change in your personality, Scott McDougall, director of the independent pharmacy, told Insider that this could be a sign that your migraine indicates a bigger problem.
"If you or someone close to you noticed that you're more nervous than usual, you're confused, or you feel depressed, it can be a red flag for something bigger," he explained.
You have painful red eyes during a migraine.
Before you reach Visine, make sure that the pain and redness you experience is not a sign of anything more serious.
"Some people may find one or both of them become painful and inflammatory during their migraine, and even become red," Macdougall said. "It's an external sign that something is wrong inside the body, and you have to investigate it," he explained.
Read more: 7 things your eyes tell you about your general health
You have changed the pattern or rate of migraines.
Most people who experience frequent migraines have quite a good idea of what to expect. But if you notice a deviation from your normal rhythm, McDougall told your doctor as soon as possible, as this may indicate a broader health problem.
To get a better idea of the pattern of your headaches, it is suggested to keep a migraine diary with notes on the time, severity, symptoms, and frequency of your headaches.
You have a growing headache with movement.
Sometimes coughing, sneezing, bending, or making any sudden movements can make your head worse.
MacDougall said if you experience a steady pain, throbbing inside your head and feeling worse during a significant movement, you should see your doctor.
You have headaches with a sharp pain behind your neck.
Migraines usually follow a certain pattern for most people. But if you feel a sharp, sudden pain coming from your neck and radiating over the top of the skull, Dr. Ziv Peled, MD, told Insider that you may have occipital neuroalgia.
While not a life-threatening condition, it is still a good idea to see your doctor if you experience any of these symptoms.
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