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Are You Sure It's A Migraine?

2 min read

Are You Sure It's A Migraine?

The Difference Between A Migraine And Other Types Of Headaches


Most people know when they have a migraine. But just to be sure, let’s discuss the differences between a migraine and other types of headaches.

Migraines are characterized by:
  • Nausea
  • Sensitivity to light or noise
  • Moderate to severe headache
  • Pulsing or throbbing pain
  • Headache worsened by activity

Migraines are often classified as “with aura” or “without aura.”  Visual aura may be identified by blurry vision or sensitivity to light as well as visual changes that result in losing part or all of one’s vision for a short period of time or seeing zigzag or squiggly lines.


IDMigraine Questionnaire

Although the symptoms of a migraine can be unique for each individual, the ID Migraine Questionnaire developed by Dr. Richard Lipton of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine states that if two of the following three criteria are present then the diagnosis of a migraine is accurate 93% of the time. If all three criteria are met, then a migraine diagnosis is likely 98% of the time.

ID Migraine Questionnaire Criteria:

1) In the last 3 months, how disabling are your migraines? Do they interfere with your ability to function? (Are you missing work, school or family activities).
 2) Are your headaches ever associated with nausea?
 3) Are your headaches ever associated with sensitivity to light?


Non-Migraine Headache Types 

Sinus Headaches

Sinus headaches are relatively rare and can be characterized as head pain in conjunction with sinus-like symptoms such as congestion, stuffy nose, and facial pressure. A recent study entitled American Migraine Study II showed that almost 90% of cases thought to be sinus headaches were misdiagnosed and were actually migraines.

Tension Headaches

According to the Mayo Clinic, tension headaches are the most common type of headache. Triggers for this type of headache include stress, muscle strain and anxiety.

Cluster Headaches

Cluster headaches can occur on one side of the head and come in clusters, or groupings. They are characterized by cycles of pain followed by headache-free periods.


Keep in mind that while the above categories cover most non-migraine headaches, there are other types. Please consult with your doctor for accurate identification.