Types of Migraines

Episodic migraines come in all different shapes and sizes. Here's how to spot the most common migraine types.

A migraine is a migraine, right? Well, yes and no.

Generally speaking, migraines are a recurring neurological disorder characterized by over excitability in specific areas of the brain. 1 As you probably know, its hallmark symptom is a painful headache.

But throbbing pain isn't the be-all and end-all of migraines. The International Classification of Headache Disorders separates migraines into two main types: chronic and episodic. Chronic migraines are experienced on 15 or more days per month for 3 months, while episodic migraines occur up to 14 days per month. A 2012 study found that approximately 92% of migraine sufferers experience episodic migraines. 2 
(Excedrin is indicated for relief of symptoms associated with episodic migraines.)

What's more, episodic migraines vary in terms of their exact symptoms. Here's what you need to know about the most common forms of episodic migraines.

Migraine Without Aura

When most people think about migraines, these are what come to mind. The most common migraine subtype, migraines without aura typically involve pulsing pain on one side of the head that last anywhere from 4 to 72 hours. 3 Some sufferers also experience nausea and/or sensitivity to light or sound, explains Joseph Hadi, M.D., a pain-management specialist in New York City. In women, migraine without aura is often associated with their menstrual cycle, he notes.

Migraine With Aura

For some migraine sufferers, visual disturbances (aka auras) warn of migraine pain to come, Hadi says. An aura is a warning sign of migraines that generally occurs before the headache and can last five to 60 minutes, usually for about 20 minutes. Once the migraine pain starts, most people's auras fade. 4

While rare, Hadi also notes that aura can also manifest itself as physical rather than visual symptoms. In some people, aura is experienced as a feeling of tingling or numbness in one side of the body. The feeling can often originate in the hands and spread toward the face.

 

Retinal Migraines

Also called “ocular migraines," retinal migraines are rare, occurring in about 1 in 200 people. However, they are often mistaken for the more common migraines with aura. While migraines with aura typically involve vision disturbances in one field of vision, retinal migraines generally involve vision impairment in one eye. In retinal migraines, vision disturbances commonly last for less than an hour, but occur in repeated bouts.

Like both migraines with and without aura, retinal or ocular migraines also cause head pain, and can cause nausea, vomiting, as well as sensitivity to lights and sound.

Show References

Hide References

1. Http://www.americanmigrainefoundation.org/. N.p., n.d. Web.

2. 1. Headache. 2012 Nov-Dec;52(10):1456-70. doi: 10.1111/j.1526-4610.2012.02223.x. Epub 2012 Jul 25. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22830411

3. "ICHD-II Full Text Search." IHS. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://ihs-classification.org/en/02_klassifikation/02_teil1/01.01.00_migraine.html>.

4. "ICHD-II Full Text Search." IHS. N.p., n.d. Web. <http://ihs-classification.org/en/02_klassifikation/02_teil1/01.02.00_migraine.html>.

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