How to tell if your headache is actually a migraine

June is National Migraine and Headache Awareness Month, and we not only want to spread awareness, but help you understand a little more about migraines. It’s reported that 30 million people suffer from migraines in the United States alone, and 75% of those people are women. If you think you might be having migraines, contact your primary care physician to discuss your options.

Albemarle Square Family Healthcare is the practice to call when you need a doctor in Charlottesville. We are a healthcare clinic dedicated to serving the community from birth through the geriatric years. Whether you have a cold, need an occupational exam, or want to discuss your headaches, we can help. Give us a call now to schedule your exam!

Here are some signs of migraines. Keep in mind that not everybody will experience the same symptoms at the same severity.

Prodrome Period

Where some people get hit out of the blue, many people experience a prodrome period, which can clue them in on the impending migraine. Some of these signs might include food cravings and excess hunger, changes in mood, euphoria, stiffness in the neck, fatigue, and increased thirstiness. If you have migraines, you will want to keep a journal of your symptoms, moods, and other signs that you notice ahead of a migraine so you know what to look out for.


Not everybody gets an aura, but those who do instantly recognize it as a precursor to migraine and start taking their preventative and rescue medications when the aura happens. The aura can come in the form of a halo effect, lights in the periphery, shapes, flashing, and bright spots to name a few. Some might lose vision in one or both eyes temporarily. But it might also be audio and other sensory phenomena like hearing unexplained noises, having difficulty talking, and pins and needles.

Throbbing Pain

Migraine pain is described by many as pulsating or throbbing, and it can occur on one side of the head or both sides. Some people find that they experience this throbbing behind the eye, but others report feeling pain in the forehead or temples, too.

Changes in Mental Health

In the time leading up to a migraine, you might experience changes in your mental health. This can include feelings of euphoria, excitement, and anxiety, or even depression, sadness, and irritability. These symptoms can start with no reason and seem to come out of nowhere. Studies have found a link between people who suffer from migraines and depression, and if you find that your mental health symptoms are ongoing, please make an appointment with us right away.

Nausea and Vomiting

Migraines can cause a number of gastrointestinal issues, including nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Over half of people who experience migraines experience vomiting with them, likely because the digestive system slows significantly during the episode. This can also interfere with medications taken after the attack—if they aren’t thrown up, they could take much longer to be absorbed by the body.

Sensitivity to Smells, Light, and Sound

Everything feels heightened during a migraine attack, and many report that they feel quite a bit of sensitivity to lights, sounds, and smells. Your favorite perfume can suddenly cause you to throw up. The light from the TV can intensify the pain. Even sounds can make you feel dizzy. Taking refuge in a quiet room with no light can help.

If you suspect you’re having migraines, speaking to your primary care physician or nurse practitioner is the next step. He or she can help you determine triggers, and discuss preventative measures such as diet, supplements, and more. They can also work with you to determine a migraine treatment plan. When you need a doctor in Charlottesville, contact Albemarle Square Family Healthcare today!