Migraine Symptoms – How to tell if it’s a migraine or another type of headache
Your head is pounding. You're seeing stars and spots. Are these migraine symptoms? Or what about when you open your eyes and any light feels like an arrow to the back of your head? Is it a tension headache? Or something more ominous?

Migraines affect nearly 20% of women (that's 1 in 5 in case you're counting) and close to 10% of men. Although they've been researched and theorized about, we really still know very little about them.

They are often age related and usually begin in the teenage years. The highest incidence of migraines occurs in people between the ages of 20-38 and they usually decline after that.

There are two types of migraine headaches:

Both have a sharp, pounding or blinding pain and the classic migraine is preceded by a warning aura of visual disturbances, numbness, nausea or weakness about 30 minutes before the headache starts.

During the headache you may have any or all of the following symptoms: lightheadedness, throbbing pain on one side of the head, nausea or vomiting (and frequently there's some relief after the vomiting), dizziness, and hypersensitivity to light, sounds and smells.



Your brain has neurotransmitters that it secretes and one of the main ones responsible for you feeling good is serotonin. It's thought that migraines can be related to improper serotonin levels (and these can be affected by lack of sleep, hormonal changes and a host of other issues). Keeping track of your behaviors, foods eaten, and sleep patterns can help you narrow down which of your lifestyle choices may be contributing to your migraines.


Migraine symptoms are often triggered by hormonal changes (this includes oral contraceptives and HRT). Women with this type of headache can be particularly sensitive to other, non-hormonal triggers, and often find the headaches start either during ovulation or just before menstruation.


There's strong evidence of migraines running in families. Now whether this is because of an actual gene within a family's DNA that affects migraines directly or if it's because of other familial health issues we don't know. For instance, some allergies run in families and those allergies could cause the migraines. This is why keeping a log of your migraines can really help narrow down the causes. My personal opinion is that the correlation between migraine symptoms and allergies/sensitivities is pretty high. I know when I was having my headaches, I was drinking diet soda, eating a lot of wheat (I always seemed to need that 3 pm cookie), and because I was in sales I was eating fast food at least twice a week. The chemicals and preservatives in fast food are HORRIBLE. Heck, you can't even pronounce half the ingredients in a typical fast food vanilla milk shake.

People with food allergies tend to have more than one, and often the foods they're allergic to are the ones they crave most often. If you think you fall into this category here are the most common culprits:

  • Cow's milk
  • Eggs
  • Chocolate
  • Oranges
  • Wheat
  • Cheese
  • Tomatoes
  • Peanuts
  • Bacon (and other smoked foods)

Nutritional Deficiencies

Besides the stuff listed above, some people have abnormal copper metabolism and/or low levels of dietary magnesium and are prone to migraine attacks. Both of these minerals are involved in serotonin metabolism.

Sleeping Patterns

Migraines are most likely to come on during dream sleep (or REM sleep) than at any other time of day. There's also some evidence that over half of migraine patients sleepwalk and nearly 75% have nightmares. Sleep disturbances would cause neurotransmitter problems (there's that serotonin again).
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