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What is a migraine without aura?

A migraine without aura is more than just a headache. The pain alone is enough to stop you from carrying on your daily activities. Then there’s the nausea, maybe vomiting and more. What makes this headache a migraine? What does it mean to have a migraine without aura? How is this different from other headaches or other migraines? Most important, what can you do to make the migraine go away?

Here is information you can use to manage migraines without auras. Find out about their symptoms, causes, treatment, and prevention.

What is migraine without aura and what causes it?

“Migraine without aura” is the name for the most common type of migraine headache. Another name you might hear is common migraine. These migraines don’t have an aura. Aura is the name for early unusual symptoms some people notice shortly before a migraine starts.

Scientists aren’t sure what causes migraines, including migraines without aura. It’s thought that at least two brain chemicals, serotonin and dopamine, play a role. The theory is something goes awry in the way these chemicals regulate brain function. This causes the brain and the body’s immune system to overreact. When that happens, a flood of immune response cells flow through the blood vessels to the brain. The brain’s blood vessels open wider to accommodate these cells. Then even more chemicals are released to help control the vessels’ muscles. The vessels open and constrict and a severe, sometimes throbbing headache results.

Substances, behaviours and environment may trigger migraines. It is known that migraines often run in families; they frequently begin in childhood and worsen through adolescence. Although more boys than girls have migraines, more adult women than adult men have migraines. Over time, the number of migraines lessens and migraines become rare after age 50.

Whatever the cause, the good news is that, although painful, a migraine without aura is not life threatening.

What are the symptoms of migraine without aura?

Migraines without aura account for about 70% to 80% of all migraines. Migraine pain usually occurs in the front of the head, on one or both sides of the temples. It may throb or be steady. The headache may last from 4 to 72 hours.

Other symptoms of migraine may include any of the following:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Yawning
  • Irritability
  • Low blood pressure
  • Feeling “hyperactive”
  • Sensitivity to light, sounds or motion

How is migraine without aura diagnosed?

Before determining treatment, your GP will want to be sure that there are no other causes for your headache. So, it’s likely the GP will perform physical and perhaps neurological examinations. In addition, your GP will ask you about your health history, including questions such as these:

  • Do other family members have migraines or other kinds of headaches?
  • Do you have any allergies?
  • What is the level of stress in your life?
  • Do you use medications such as contraceptive pills or vasodilators that could cause headaches?
  • Do you exert yourself physically or notice that headaches start after coughing or sneezing?

Your GP may also request these tests to be sure that the headache is not caused by other factors:

  • Blood tests
  • Imaging such as X-ray, CT scan or MRI
  • Tests for infection, bleeding or other medical problems that could cause similar symptoms.
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