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Estimates of the number of Americans suffering from migraine (migrane) headaches range from a conservative 26 million proposed by the American Medical Association to an alarming 48 million (6% of men and 18% of women), based on data from Lipton and Stewart, published in Neurologic Clinics.
Despite this prevalence, migraines remain a mystery to many, even to those who suffer most from these headaches unlike any other. There is no medical test for determining what is or isn't a migrane headache, but guidelines do exist for differentiating between migranes and other severe headaches.
According to an FDA Consumer article based on information from the American Medical Association, nausea and sensitivity to light, sound and odors are characteristics of migraine headaches which don't usually accompany tension or cluster headaches.
Although partial remedies do exist once the pain starts, heading off your headache before it hits you hard is probably the most effective game plan for vanquishing migraines. Learning to recognize the warnings signs of migraine onset and avoiding so-called "triggers" are essential.
Food additives such a nitrites (often used in prepared meats), MSG and aspartame are well known triggers for many. As might be expected, lifestyle factors such as stress, sleep deficiency, smoking and irregular eating also play an important role. For women, three times as likely to suffer from migraines as men, hormonal changes such as those accompanying menstruation, menopause or the onset of puberty are often implicated.
WHEN THE PAIN COMES
Two good places to begin looking for help are the FDA migraine page and the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Migraine Information Center. http://www.fda.gov/fdac/features/1998/398_pain.html