22 Things About Migraines You May Not Know

by Teri Robert Patient Advocate

Migraine is a disease

Migraine is a neurological disease thought to be caused by genetics and overactive neurons in the brain.

Migraines aren't headaches

Migraines aren’t exactly headaches. Migraines can occur with no headache at all and are then described as “silent” or “acephalgic.”

The migraine aura...

The aura phase of a migraine attack is experienced by only 25 to 30 percent of migraineurs.

Smelling things...

An olfactory hallucination, smelling an odor that isn’t actually present, can occur during the migraine aura.

Hearing things...

An auditory hallucination, hearing sounds that aren't actually present, can occur during the migraine aura.

Migraines occur at all ages

Migraines can occur at any age – from young children to senior citizens.

Sinus headaches

Studies have shown that 90 percent of what people think are sinus headaches are really migraines. A sinus headache is very rare without an infection.

Migraine specialists

Neurologists aren’t necessarily migraine specialists, and migraine specialists aren’t necessarily neurologists.

Migraines and hysterectomy

When women experience menopause naturally, one-third experience worse migraines. When women experience menopause following a hysterectomy, two-thirds experience worse migraines.

Medications can backfire

Taking migraine abortive medications, pain relievers, or alternating them more than two or three days a week can cause medication overuse headache.

Migraine triggers

Migraines don’t just happen; they have triggers. Trigger identification and management is an essential element of migraine management.

No medications developed for migraine

There are no medications on the market that were specifically developed for the prevention of migraines.

Migraine can be disabling

Migraine is the twelfth most disabling disorder in the United States.

Severe migraine attacks

According to a World Health Organization analysis, severe migraine attacks are as disabling as quadriplegia (paralysis of both arms and legs).

Migraines and suicide

Suicide attempts are three times more likely among people who have migraine with aura than among people who do not have migraine.

Migraines, women, and cardiovascular disease

More than 1,400 American women with migraine with aura die each year from cardiovascular diseases compared to women who do not have migraine.

Migraine and abuse

Studies have shown that a history of mental and physical abuse can affect the frequency and severity of migraines

Migraine isn't new

Migraine is not a new disease or diagnosis. Hippocrates described migraine around 400 BC.

An ancient migraine remedy

Skulls dating from 7000-3000 BC have been discovered with holes from trepanation, an ancient migraine remedy of drilling holes in the skull.

More girls or boys?

Up to about the age of seven, the number of boys and girls who have migraines is about equal. After that, three times as many girls/women have migraines as boys/men.

When to see a doctor

If you're having your worst migraine ever or symptoms that are unusual for you or frightening, see a doctor as soon as possible. You need to be sure this IS a migraine and not something more serious, such as a stroke.

Migraine and vasodilation

Until recently, it was thought that vasodilation (widening of blood vessels) always occurred during a migraine. Recently, researchers have observed some migraines with no vasodilation.

Teri Robert
Meet Our Writer
Teri Robert

Teri Robert is a leading patient educator and advocate and the author of Living Well with Migraine Disease and Headaches. A co-founder of the Alliance for Headache Disorders Advocacy and the American Headache and Migraine Association, she received the National Headache Foundation's Patient Partners Award and a Distinguished Service Award from the American Headache Society.