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Distinguishing migraines from headaches

Migraine sufferers often must explain that their condition is not the same as other headaches.

For instance, they might have to clarify to friends that being sick with a migraine is not the same as having a headache after a late night. They also have to discuss with their doctors the symptoms of a migraine that set it apart from a traditional headache. People who experience migraines also have to make this same distinction if they want to apply for disability benefits.

As such, it is important to understand why a migraine is different from a headache and what effect this condition has on sufferers.

Symptoms

Depending on the type of headache a person has, the symptoms generally include throbbing, pulsing pain on both sides of the head that subside after a few hours or a day.

Migraines can cause severely painful headaches, as well as lightheadedness, nausea, blurred vision and sensitivity to light. Further, unlike headache symptoms, migraine symptoms can occur before and after an attack. These might include vision loss, mood changes, visual disturbances and weakness. These symptoms can last several days and be disabling. 

Treatment

Headaches can be treated with aspirin or ibuprofen; relaxation techniques and drinking plenty of water can also help alleviate a headache.

Migraine treatments vary considerably by individual, as noted in this article from the Mayo Clinic. For some, it is possible to avoid triggers that cause their migraines. Other people require powerful medication or they use solutions approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration like transcutaneous supraorbital nerve stimulation, which involves a device with electrodes that users wear like a headband to reduce the frequency of migraines.

Effects on the sufferer

A headache might be uncomfortable or painful, but sufferers can typically still perform daily activities.

People experiencing a migraine may be unable to get out of bed, let alone go to work. In fact, some people require hospitalization.

When your migraines are disabling

Headaches and infrequent migraines may not be considered disabling in the context of conditions that are eligible for disability benefits.

However, people with frequent, severe migraines who cannot work as a result of their condition should consider discussing their situation with an attorney. Those who can distinguish their condition from headaches or infrequent migraine attacks could collect disability benefits.

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