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What is a migraine without aura?

An aura is a warning sign some people experience before a migraine comes on. In migraine without aura, there is no warning.

Migraine without aura is the most common type of migraine, and used to be called common migraine.

Causes of migraine without aura

Scientists aren’t sure what causes migraine 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 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, including a neurological, examination. In addition, your GP will ask you about your health history, including questions such as these:

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.

How are migraines without aura treated?

If there are underlying causes for your headaches, your GP will recommend treatment appropriate to the cause. If your headaches are determined to be migraines without aura, your treatment involves two goals:

  • To relieve symptoms
  • To help prevent future attacks
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