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5 Headache and Migraine Signs You Need to be Aware Of

Headaches and migraines plague more than 38 million people, with some studies suggesting that 13 percent of adults in the U.S. have periodic migraines and two to three million people suffer from chronic migraines. June is Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, a good a time as any to discuss the signs you should be aware of, particularly if you have a loved one in hospice. That’s because many chronic and terminal illnesses and diseases are punctuated by severe headaches and migraines. Even the medication San Francisco hospice patients are put on can contribute to them. This year for 2018’s Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, the theme is “You Are Not Alone.” Indeed. The more we know about these debilitating conditions, the stronger we can be.

The Statistics

First, let’s take a look at some of the sobering statistics about migraine and headache. While you may assume these afflictions aren’t as serious as other conditions, you may think again when you take a look at the numbers. Nearly five million people in the U.S. experience at least one migraine attack per month, while more than 11 million people saying migraines cause moderate to severe disability. Here are some other numbers you should know:

  • 91% miss work or can’t function normally when having a migraine attack
  • 70% have a family history of migraines
  • 70% of migraine sufferers are female
  • 69% see a doctor for migraine pain
  • 59% repeatedly miss social events due to migraines
  • 53% say their migraines result in severe disability requiring bed rest
  • Half of migraine sufferers have not been diagnosed
  • 47% of migraine sufferers previously thought they only had a tension or sinus headache
  • 25% experience one or more migraines a week
  • 24% have gone to the ER due to severe pain with a migraine

Difference Between Headache and Migraine

Many people use the two terms interchangeably, but the truth is, they are very different. They may both result in head pain but how they manifest symptoms and how they are treated will vary.

A headache is pain that causes pressure and aching. They usually come on slowly but some can hit out of nowhere. Pain ranges from mild to severe, usually occurring on both sides of your head, with common areas including the forehead, temples, and back of the neck, according to Healthline. They can last anywhere from a half hour to several days, with the most common type being a tension headache, triggered by stress, muscle strain, and anxiety.

A migraine is a type of headache that is intense or severe, with other symptoms present in addition to head pain, such as:

  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Pain behind one eye or ear
  • Pain in the temples
  • Temporary vision loss
  • Blurred vision
  • Sensitivity to light and sound
  • Seeing flashing lights or spots
  • Aura

Sometimes migraines are so severe that people seek out care at an emergency room. Unlike headaches, migraines usually affect just one side of the head. And while you may be able to take part in activities or go to work with a headache, a migraine causes such intense pain, throbbing, and associated symptoms that it is extremely difficult or impossible to perform daily tasks. Often times, the only way to relieve a migraine is to take medication, then lie down in a dark room in silence until it passes.

Signs of an Impending Migraine

Migraines often come with the above symptoms, but there are signs a migraine may be about to hit. It’s called the “prodrome” phase and many people experience symptoms a day or two before a migraine occurs. These can include:

  1. Constipation
  2. Symptoms of depression
  3. Frequent yawning
  4. Irritability
  5. Neck stiffness

Some people even report unusual food cravings. In a hospice setting, though, this can be difficult to attribute to an impending migraine, as many medications can also trigger changes in appetite or cravings.

Signs of Headache

Tension headaches often feel like there is a tight band around your head, slowly squeezing and causing mild to moderate pain. According to the Mayo Clinic, signs of such a headache include:

  1. Dull, aching head pain
  2. Sensation of tightness or pressure across the forehead or on the sides and back of the head
  3. Tenderness on scalp, neck and shoulder muscles
  4. Nausea
  5. Dizziness

Any headache that comes on in seconds, or that is accompanied by a fever, mental confusion, double vision, weakness, trouble speaking or numbness should be evaluated by a medical professional immediately. This also applies if you suffer a headache after a head injury. Headaches, like migraines, can be treated with medication, dietary changes, lifestyle changes and stress relieving techniques. Always consult with your doctor before trying any of these.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

If your loved one needs compassionate hospice care, please contact us at 888-755-7855. We offer home health, hospice, veterans support, palliative care, bereavement services and much more.