Migraines are intense, throbbing headaches that differ from other kinds of headaches. They are thought to result from changes in chemicals in the brain and there may also be a genetic component. They are generally more common in women than in men. Other common headaches include tension headaches (tight muscles in the neck and back of the head) and sinus headaches, which result from pressure and inflammation in the sinus cavities.
Severe pain, usually described as throbbing pain that may occur on one or both sides of the head, is typical of a migraine. The pain is often directly behind the eye or eyes. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to lights or sounds. Some people describe flashing lights before or during a migraine, and migraines can also affect vision. Migraine headaches are more likely to start in the morning and can last from a few hours to several days.
Tension and sinus headaches are often treated with over-the-counter pain medications. Tension headaches may respond to massage or stretching exercises, while sinus headaches may respond to decongestants and nasal sprays. Migraines are often treated with medications that can prevent them or reduce the frequency. They may also be treated with over-the-counter or prescription pain medications. Part of managing migraines is to identify “triggers” that set them off and then avoiding the trigger if possible.
Urgent care becomes necessary when the patient has a severe headache that is not responding to at home measures. Severe nausea and vomiting and the inability to keep fluids down can lead to dehydration; in some cases, intravenous fluids are necessary.
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