Which type of migraines do you experience? Understanding the difference between the many classifications of migraine attacks can help you determine which migraine triggers to avoid and how to describe your symptoms to your migraine doctor.
What defines a migraine?
Doctors may not agree about whether migraine is an illness or a health condition, but we do know that migraine attacks stem from a neurological disorder. While excruciating headaches are the most common symptom of migraine, not all migraineurs experience head pain with each migraine attack, and some of the other symptoms can be equally crippling.
Also, not all chronic headaches are migraines; cluster headaches and tension headaches are classified in a separate category from migraine headaches.
Is it Migraine or Tension Headache? Comparison Chart
Migraines are generally defined by the specific symptoms, plus the assumed migraine triggers or cause. Migraine attack symptoms vary for each individual, and can be inconsistent.
Migraines with Aura
Basically, migraines are divided into two groups: those that follow a “migraine aura” and those that don’t.
The migraine aura is a warning signal that happens mere seconds before a migraine strikes. Symptoms can be frightening and debilitating: sudden vertigo, partial paralysis, distorted sense of spatial awareness, speech slurring, strange flashes of lights or colors, and sometimes brief loss of consciousness.
Sometimes a migraine aura gives you time to prepare and quickly take an abortive medication, but not always.
An ocular migraine refers to a migraine with aura, and defines the specific phenomenon that occurs during this migraine phase. Other names include ophthalmic migraine or retinal migraine.
There are different types of ocular migraine, depending on which type of visual distortion you experience before a migraine attack occurs.
Symptoms of ocular migraine include blurred vision, bright specks of light, zigzagging lines, oscillating arcs, temporary partial blindness in one eye, floating lines, and dark void that increases.
Also called “silent migraines,” an acephalgic migraine includes all the symptoms of a migraine attack, minus the headache. Somebody suffering from acephalgic migraines may experience frequent dizziness, nausea, stomach cramps, visual distortions, vertigo, and extreme fatigue- all symptoms that occur often with migraines with aura.
Migraine Auras without Headache: Silent Migraines
Sometimes, your migraine headaches occur only with changes in climate. Migraines are characteristically hypersensitive to changes of any kind (e.g. hormones, blood sugar, and sleep schedules), so fluctuations in the weather that occur with the change of seasons can trigger strong headaches for many people who are predisposed to migraines.
Other reasons for season migraines can include allergens in the air, arid weather, or even seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a type of depression that afflicts some people in the winter.
Cyclic Migraine Syndrome
Also called unspecified migraine, cyclic migraines don’t follow any pattern that can be traced easily. You may go through a phase of chronic migraine headaches- more than 15 per month- and then experience a weeks-long respite, only to have the vicious cycle repeat all over again.
Abdominal migraines are usually the earliest sign of pediatric migraine, as they’re mostly common in children who have inherited migraines from their family. Still, abdominal migraines can occur with adults. Symptoms of abdominal migraine include intense stomach cramps, nausea, vomiting, and loss of appetite.
Abdominal Migraines- Because Migraines Are Not Always In Your Head!
Pediatric Migraine Tips for Parents
Dealing with Nausea and Vomiting with Migraines