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What Is a Migraine?

Migraine, a neurological disease characterized by severe, throbbing headaches, affects 1 billion people worldwide. Its pain and accompanying symptoms can be debilitating and last as long as three days. More than 4 million adults have chronic daily migraines. Three factors increase a person’s risk:

  • Age — Migraine is most common in people ages 25 to 55.
  • Gender — Some 85 percent of adult chronic migraine sufferers are women.
  • Heredity — About 90 percent of sufferers have a family history of the disease.


There are several well-known migraine triggers, including: 

  • A change in sleep pattern
  • Certain foods, food additives and drinks — Aged cheeses and alcohol are two common dietary triggers.
  • Hormonal changes in women — These changes can be related to menstruation, pregnancy or menopause.
  • Hunger
  • Medications — Oral contraceptives trigger migraines in some women.
  • Physical exertion
  • Stress
  • Strong sensory stimuli — Bright lights and sun glare can induce migraines, as can loud sounds.
  • Weather changes


Some people experience a pre-migraine aura, a nervous system symptom, which can be characterized by:

  • Difficulty speaking
  • Jerking muscles
  • Prickling or pins and needles sensations in an arm or leg
  • Seeing lights or shapes or hearing sounds that aren’t there
  • Vision loss
  • Weakness or numbness in the face or body

Migraine symptoms may include:

  • Blurred vision — The migraine may cause objects to appear to lose visual sharpness.
  • Lightheadedness or fainting — People with migraines often report feeling weak.
  • Nausea — Migraines sometimes cause feelings of sickness, sometimes leading to vomiting.
  • One-sided pain — Throbbing migraine headaches usually occur on one side.
  • Sensitivity — Migraine sufferers often find that they’re sensitive to light, sound, touch or smell.

After the headache subsides, the symptoms may linger.

Treatment Options

Most migraine sufferers never see a doctor for the condition, although there are preventive therapies. Treatment options include:

  • Medication — Over-the-counter and prescription drugs can ease migraine symptoms, and some drugs can prevent their onset.
  • Transcutaneous supraorbital nerve stimulation — This therapy reduces the frequency of migraines through the use of an electronic device worn on the head.
  • Learn to cope (LTC) therapy — Sometimes combined with cognitive behavioral therapy, LTC gradually desensitizes the patient to migraine triggers.
  • Lifestyle changes — Regular exercise and a consistent daily routine may help reduce the frequency or intensity of migraines.
  • Botox injections — This treatment is now approved for refractory migraine patients.

Ready for an Appointment?

If you're experiencing signs or symptoms of a migraine, schedule an appointment or call 800-TEMPLE-MED (800-836-7536) today.

Learn more about our doctors and care team who diagnose and treat migraines.