Debunking 5 Suprising Migraine Myths

Seek Out the Truth: Your Migraines are Real

Woman with migraine headache
Learn about five common migraine myths or misconceptions. Jamie Grill/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Due to the common occurrence of migraine, there is a plethora of information out there to help you better understand your diagnosis, treatment, and how to cope. This information, however, can be quite misleading and downright false.

Let's review five common migraine myths and get to the bottom of what the truth really is.

Myth #1 "Only Women Get Migraines."

Fact: Men get migraines too, although they are more common in women.

Approximately 18 percent of women in American suffer from migraines compared to 6 percent of men. 

Myth #2 "If I Have Migraines Than So Will My Children."

Fact: While there is a strong genetic basis to the development of migraines, it does not necessarily mean your children will have migraines if you do. Likewise, just because you have a family history of migraines, does not mean you will develop migraines.

Another way to think about it is that just because you do NOT have a family history of migraines does not mean you will NOT have migraines yourself.

Myth #3 "If You Do Not See Flashing Lights Than You Are Not Having A Migraine."

Fact: You do not need to have an aura to have a migraine. In fact, only about one-third of migraineurs have an aura. Remember, auras typically consist of visual, sensory, and/or language disturbances that are reversible and last up to about an hour.

Myth #4 "Migraines During a Women's Menstrual Cycle are in Her Head."

Fact: Headaches during your menstrual cycle could very well be migraines.

They are not "in your head" or related to depression/mood changes, as your spouse or friends may insinuate.

This goes back to the fact that while migraines occur in men, they are more common in women. This is likely due to the influence of the hormones estrogen and progesterone on migraine occurrence, frequency, and severity.

For instance, migraine frequency increases immediately before or during a women’s menstrual cycle (menstrual migraines), when her estrogen levels have decreased. On the other hand, many women experience relief of their migraines during the second and third trimesters of pregnancy, a high estrogen state.

An effective way to diagnose menstrual migraines is by maintaining a thorough headache diary, paying particular attention to record both headache symptoms, as well as the start and stop of your menstrual cycle. In addition, it;s important to inform your doctor of any form of oral contraceptive or hormone replacement therapy you are on, as this may also be affecting your migraine patterns.

Myth #5 "If You Suffer From Migraine, You Are Out Of Luck. There Is Really No Good Treatment."

Fact: This is absolutely not true, as there are lots of therapies for migraineurs. That being said, it can be a tedious process to find the therapy that works for you, and it's often a combination of treatments that is most effective.

Getting a proper diagnosis and  maintaining a detailed headache diary to help identify triggers are key to understanding your migraines. Then, seeing your doctor regularly and discussing/trying out various preventive and abortive migraine medications are the next steps.

Bottom Line

If you suffer from migraines, be proactive in your healthcare. Seek out truthful information sources and always speak with your healthcare provider about any concerns or questions you have. Most migraines can be treated and/or prevented effectively. But you must advocate for yourself and your health.

Sources:

Gilmore, B., & Michael, M. (2011). Treatment of acute migraine headache. American Family Physician,Feb 1;83(3):271-80.

Migraine Research Foundation. (April 2016). Migraine Fact Sheet.

Li, C.I., Mathes, R.W., Bluhm, E.C., Caan, B., Cavanagh, M.F., & Chlebowski, R.T. (2010). Migraine history and breast cancer risk among postmenopausal women. Journal of Clinical Oncology, Feb 20;28(6):1005-10.

Lipton, R.B., Stewart, W.F., Diamond, S., Diamond, M.L., & Reed, M. (2001). Prevalence and burden of migraine in the United States: data from the American Migraine Study II. Headache, 41(7):646–57.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (December 2001). 21st Century Prevention and Management of Migraine Headaches.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this site is for informational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your doctor for advice, diagnosis, and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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