Migraine without Aura
If you experience recurrent, long-lasting headaches, you may be suffering from “headache without aura.” This is the most common form of migraine. Because headache sufferers can have more than one type of migraine or migraine plus tension headache, obtaining a professional diagnosis is important. When you visit the Diamond Headache Clinic, the premier headache and migraine treatment center in Chicago, an expert headache physician conducts a thorough examination. Determining the combination of physiological, biological and environmental factors that contribute to the severity and duration of your headache condition is necessary to pinpoint effective treatments.
What Are the Symptoms of Migraine Without Aura?
In patients who suffer from headache or migraine without aura, the pain comes with no warning. This headache condition is generally characterized by three distinct phases but, oddly enough, headache without aura may skip the headache phase. Each stage is described below:
This pre-headache phase often serves as a warning that an attack is coming, and in some cases, the patient is able to prevent the headache. The prodrome phase occurs hours or even days before a headache attack. Symptoms may include:
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Fatigue and/or yawning
- Food cravings
- Increased frequency of urination
- Mood changes like irritability and depression
- Muscle stiffness, particularly in the neck
Headache pain ranges from mild to intense. This phase is the most debilitating part of the migraine. The entire body, not just the head, is affected. The intense pain most commonly begins at around 6 a.m., and it usually lasts 1 – 72 hours. Characteristics typically include several of the following:
- Unilateral (one-sided) headache pain, although young children may experience bilateral (two-sided) pain
- Pain that occurs around the eyes, sinuses and jaw
- Pain that is worsened by physical activity
- Neck pain
- Increased sensitivity to light, sound and odors
- Dizziness or vertigo
- Nausea and vomiting
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Dehydration or fluid retention
- Hot flashes or chills
- Nasal congestion or runny nose
- Depression, anxiety or confusion
Once the headache phase ends, the attack may or may not be over. The recovery or post-headache phase can last for hours or even days. Sufferers report feeling “zombie-like” or “hung over,” which may be an effect of the medications taken or the headache itself. Symptoms can include:
- Feelings of depression, well-being or euphoria
- Reduced ability to concentrate and lowered comprehension
- Lowered intellect levels
How Is Migraine Without Aura Diagnosed?
The doctors at the Diamond Headache Clinic are experts in diagnosing headache without aura. An experienced headache physician conducts a thorough exam, including an inquiry into the patient’s and family’s health history as well as an investigation of the patient’s lifestyle (e.g., levels of stress and physical activity). Physical and neurological (imaging) exams are needed to obtain the correct diagnosis. Additional tests, such as blood tests and X-rays, may be required to rule out other conditions.
What Is the Recommended Treatment for Migraine Without Aura?
Migraine without aura treatment involves both symptom relief and prevention of recurring attacks. Symptom relief includes some easy actions that may help relieve headache pain: resting with eyes closed or napping in a dark, quiet room; putting ice packs or cold compresses on the forehead; drinking lots of fluids; and consuming a small amount of caffeine.
Drug therapy, an important component of symptom relief, is categorized as either acute or preventive treatment. Acute treatment means relieving pain after the migraine symptoms appear, while preventive treatment is aimed at thwarting future headache attacks.
Acute treatment may include over-the-counter and/or prescription drugs. Over-the-counter pain-relieving medications include aspirin, acetaminophen, NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and naproxen, analgesics and antiemetics (drugs that treat nausea and vomiting). Depending on the severity of the pain, your doctor may prescribe triptans, ergot derivatives, stronger non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) or narcotics.
If you suffer from frequent, severe headaches or migraines, your doctor may recommend preventive treatment so attacks can be stopped before they even happen. Commonly prescribed preventive medications include anticonvulsants, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and antidepressants.Can you take headache relief drugs too often? Yes — if you use such drugs more than three times a week, you may experience what is known as medication overuse headache. When this occurs, you get pain relief at first, but the pain reappears as the drug wears off. After a while, your periods of pain relief become shorter and you end up with chronic headache pain. For this reason, the Diamond Headache Clinic offers a variety of non-drug therapies, which include biofeedback and relaxation training; change-in-lifestyle recommendations like exercise, weight loss as appropriate, sufficient hydration, eating regular meals, avoiding trigger foods and beverages, discontinuing certain medications and getting enough sleep; and natural treatments such as riboflavin (Vitamin B2), magnesium, coenzyme Q10 and butterbur (a natural extract).