10 Common Migraine Myths

Patient Expert
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Despite advances in treatment, myths about migraine disease still run rampant. Here are 10 myths about migraine and the truth behind them.


Myth: A migraine is just a bad headache

Fact: Migraine is a genetic neurological disease characterized by episodes best called migraine attacks. The headache, when there is one, is just one symptom and isn’t always severe.  Migraine attacks can occur with no headache. In fact, for a diagnosis of migraine, there must be symptoms other than headache.


Myth: Only women have migraines

Fact: Women and men, girls and boys have migraines. In childhood, it’s pretty even between girls and boys. After adolescence, 18 percent of women have migraines, and 8 percent of men have migraines.


Myth: Only adults have migraines

Fact: People of all ages have migraines. Some children have migraines beginning when they’re too young to talk and tell anyone what’s wrong. With children that young, diagnosis is achieved by reviewing family medical history and observing the child’s behavior. Migraines can also continue to any age.


Myth: Migraines don’t last more than a day

Fact: Although migraines usually last from four to 72 hours, they can last longer – for days, weeks, or even months. When a single migraine lasts longer than 72 hours, it’s termed status migrainosus, and we need to contact our doctors. More than 6.4 million Americans have chronic migraine, which is migraine or headache at least 15 days a month, eight of which must be migraine.


Myth: Migraines aren’t life-threatening

Fact: A migraine itself may not be life-threatening, but complications of migraine and risk factors associated with migraine can be. In rare cases migrainous infarction can occur during migraine with aura. Research has confirmed links between migraine and stroke and other cardiovascular diseases and events, as well as between migraine and suicide.


Myth: Any doctor can properly diagnose and treat migraine

Fact: In 2011, a World Health Organization report stated, “Lack of knowledge among health care providers is the principal clinical barrier to effective headache (including migraine) management.” The report also revealed that non-specialist physician undergraduate medical training included just four hours training in ALL headache disorders.


Myth: Only certain types of people get migraines

Fact: In the past, there was a theory that a set of personality features and reactions were dominant in people with migraine, a “migraine personality.” As more research proved that migraine is genetic and neurological, this theory was abandoned.


Myth: Migraines must have aura

Fact: Only 25 to 30 percent of migraineurs have migraine with aura, and few of them have the aura with every migraine attack. Most people diagnosed with migraine with aura are also diagnosed with migraine without aura.


Myth: Nothing can be done about migraines

Fact: Sadly, even some doctors believe this one. There’s no cure for migraine at this time, but there’s a great deal we can do. By partnering with a doctor who understands migraine and how to treat it, we can work on trigger identification and management and finding effective treatments to help us achieve better migraine management.


Myth: All migraines are alike

Fact: This is wrong on many levels. First, a person’s migraines can vary from one to the next. Second, migraines definitely vary from one migraineur to the next. And, third, there are several types and subtypes of migraine. For example, there are several subtypes of migraine with aura: migraine with brainstem aura, sporadic and familial hemiplegic migraine, and retinal migraine.


Raise awareness

Raising public awareness about migraine can be greatly enhanced by public education and dispelling the myths that still surround migraine disease. Please share the link to this slideshow to help raise awareness. For more on raising awareness, please see Making Migraines Visible.