Difference Between Migraine and Headaches

Key Difference – Migraine vs. Headaches
 

Migraine is a neurological disease characterized by episodic headaches that are usually associated with autonomic and other neurological symptoms. Headache is a general term, and it can be defined as pain in the cranial vault. Headaches can occur due to multiple reasons, and there are different characteristics based on the cause. The key difference between migraine and headaches is that the migraine can be treated with simple painkillers and sometimes need preventive treatment but headaches require simple analgesics to more sophisticated treatments such as tumor resection depending on the cause.

What is Migraine?

Migraine is a neurological disease characterized by episodic moderate to severe headaches with associated other neurological symptoms predominately autonomic symptoms. Typically, the headache affects one side of the head, is pulsating in nature, and can last up to 3 days. Associated symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light, sound, or smell that are known to worsen a headache. Up to one-third of patients with migraine headaches perceive an aura that is a transient visual, language, sensory, or motor disturbance that act as a warning sign for the onset of a headache.

Migraines are believed to be due to a mixture of environmental and genetic factors or multifactorial. Changing hormone levels is known to play a role, as it occurs in two to three times more in women than men. The exact mechanisms of migraine are not well understood. Initial management of migraine is with simple pain medication such as ibuprofen and paracetamol for the headache, medication for nausea, and for the avoidance of trigger factors. Specific medicines such as triptans or ergotamines are used for whom simple analgesics are not working. Sometimes migraine can associate with transient motor and sensory abnormalities as well. There are many new migraine treatments under trails.

Difference Between Migraine and Headaches

What is Headache?

Headache is the pain in the cranial vault. There are hundreds of causes for headaches. Most important fact is the identification of more sinister types of headaches such as intracranial hemorrhages, brain tumors, etc. Sudden onset of extremely severe headaches and morning headaches with vomiting need further investigations and evaluation by a clinician. However, most headaches are simple headaches. There are episodic headache types that occur with a typical set of symptoms. Cluster headaches, tension headaches are some of them. They are not sinister but very much disturbing to the patient as they come in episodes. Evaluation and treatment of headaches are different based on a pattern of a headache.  Sometimes it needs complex procedures such as surgery in cases such as hemorrhages and tumors.

Key Difference - Migraine vs Headaches

What is the difference between Migraine and Headaches?

Definition:

Migraine is an episodic headache type characterized by an aura.

Headache is defined as pain in the cranial vault.

Cause:

Cause of migraines is not well understood, and it is possibly vascular in origin.

Headaches, in general, can have many causes ranging from more sinister ones to harmless ones.

Investigations:

If the patient has a typical pattern of migraine, extensive investigations are not required.

Any a sinister headache needs careful evaluation.

Treatment:

Migraine can be treated with simple painkillers and sometimes need preventive treatment.

Headaches, in general, need simple analgesics to more sophisticated treatments such as tumor resection depending on the cause.

Prevention:

Migraine may be prevented by the avoidance of precipitants.

Headache, in general, is not preventable in most cases.

 

Image Courtesy:

1. “Migraine” by Sasha Wolff from Grand Rapids – Can’t Concentrate: 14/365. [CC BY 2.0] via Commons

2. “Tension-headache” by Shanghai killer whale – Own work. [CC BY-SA 3.0] via Commons