Any kind of migraine should not be confused with headaches, although the confusion is easy to come by. Both maladies involve head pain. But migraines often only pummel half of your head while headaches pummel both sides. Doctors tend to make a sharp distinction between headaches and migraines, but they will understand what you mean if you complain that you have been having “migraine headaches”.
Think of migraines as a different species than headaches and that may make understanding the different types of migraines a bit easier. And please do not use this article in the place of your doctor’s diagnosis. There are dozens of migraine types, but the following are the most common, according to “Migraines For Dummies” (Wiley Publishing; 2003.)
The Classic Migraine
This is what people usually think of when they hear the word “migraine”. This is when you get a blinding pain on one side of the head, often accompanied by extreme nausea, sensitivity to light and sound and dizziness. The pain, nausea, heightened senses and dizziness eventually go away after a few hours or a few weeks.
The “classic migraine” can be further divided into two types – migraine with aura and migraine without aura. People can have both kinds in their lifetime. An aura is when you see lights, blurs or other visual hallucinations from ten minutes to a half hour before the head pain hits. For some people, an aura is sounds they suddenly hear in one or both ears. Some people even smell things that aren’t there during an aura.
The most famous person in the world with vestibular migraines is Janet Jackson. This is a very debilitating type of migraine that is accompanied by vertigo, loss of balance and sometimes trouble controlling your limbs. It’s also called a migraine variant.
One of the most painful types of migraines and one of the most difficult to diagnose because it closely resembles a stroke. This can be further split into two types – familial hemiplegic migraine (which is genetic in nature) and sporadic hemiplegic migraine (which is more mysterious). You can not only have all of the signs of a vestibular migraine, but one side of your face may droop, you may get a fever and you may get meningitis.
As odd as this may sound, this is a type of migraine without head pain. Unfortunately, you don’t completely luck out with silent or acephalgic migraines. You often get hallucinations, vertigo, nausea and confusion. You can have silent migraines as well as other kinds of migraines in your lifetime.
This kind of migraine is most often seen in children although very occasionally seen in adults. This is where most of the pain is in the guts, accompanied by skin pallor, dark circles under the eyes and vomiting. Many children with abdominal migraines grow up into adults with classic migraines.
A very rare migraine type, but mentioned here because it is a medical emergency. Any migraine that lasts over 72 hours can indicate other underlying medical problems. But even if it is “just” a migraine, painkillers will need to be given intravenously.
“Migraines For Dummies.” Diane Stafford & Jennifer Shoquist, MD. Wiley Publishing; 2003.
Aetna. Woman’s Health, Migraine Types
The Mayo Clinic. Migraine