Posted by: Curious | 2009/02/12

Difference between headache &  migraine


Could you explain what the difference between a migraine and headache is?

I told my boyfriend the other day that I had a migraine coming and he wanted to know how I knew it wasn' t just a headache. I couldn' t explain to him, so I just said - from experience.

Also is migraine inherited? Both me, my sister and my mom get terrible migraines - some of them have us land up in hospital.


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Our expert says:
Expert ImageHeadache expert

Dear Curious,

The difference between a migraine and an ordinary tension headache is the severity of the pain and the accompanying symptoms. There is no clear cut distinction.

The more severe the pain, the more likely it is to be called a migraine. Also with migraine there tends to be more nausea and vomiting, more light sensitivity, more sensitivity to noise, and there is a greater likelyhood of experiencing an 'aura' beforehand. The aura can be seeing flashing and zig-zag lights, visual disturbances, numbness of the hand and fingers, and difficulty speaking.

Headache sufferers often have a poor Quality of Life due to the constant pain and associated symptoms. For a free assessment of how your headaches are affecting your Quality of Life, click on

This information has been supplied and checked by the multidisciplinary team of specialists at The Headache Clinic, in association with The International Headache Society and the South African Institute of Headache and Migraine Science. For consultation with these specialists, call The Headache Clinic on 0861 678 911 (Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban).

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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