Common headache and migraine, tips to understand the differences

For some it is a nuisance that occurs rarely, when perhaps it is too much at the table or with alcohol or when the neck and back have been kept in a spoiled position for too long. But for many people, especially women, the headache it is a real threat to the quality of life. This is the case, for example, ofmigraine, in its various forms, which mainly affects women. For these situations it is always necessary to rely on a specialist who is able to offer, case by case, the most suitable possible solutions.

To raise awareness of a problem that does not really let live, from Monday 9 May until Sunday 15 the National Headache Week is celebrated, promoted by the SIN (Italian Society of Neurology) and by the SISC (Italian Society for Study of headaches). During the initiative, thanks to the social campaign “Let’s face it”, who suffer from headache he is invited to record a short video of a maximum of one minute containing a question about the disease which will be answered by one of the experts of the SIN or of the SISC. The video answer will be published, together with the question, on the Sin and SISC institutional social profiles. Videos must be sent to

Headache or migraine?

There are two broad categories: the primary headaches they are disorders in themselves not related to other pathologies and are the most frequent, while the secondary headaches they depend on other pathologies, such as, for example, headache from head and / or cervical trauma, from cerebral vascular disorders (such as stroke), from non-vascular skull diseases (such as brain tumors, hypertension or CSF hypotension). In turn, primary headaches includemigrainetension-type headache, cluster headache and are distinguished by the type of pain, intensity, location in the head, duration, frequency and other concomitant symptoms. Migraine is characterized by a throbbing pain with moderate to severe intensity that often is localized in the middle of the head and face.

The patient fails to perform none of the daily activities because each action aggravates the pain and, sometimes (migraine with aura), the attacks are preceded by neurological disorders such as, for example, visual symptoms. The seizure usually occurs together with other ailments such as vomiting and intolerance to light and noise and can last from a few hours to 2-3 days. Two thirds of migraine patients are women.

The tension-type headache, on the other hand, has a mild-moderate intensity, of a gravative or constricting type (classic circle of the head) lasting a few minutes or hours or even a few days, not aggravated by the usual physical activities and not associated, in general , to nausea or vomiting. It is the most frequent form of headache with a prevalence of around 80%. Factors of genetic predisposition they can have some influence in the development of tension headache as well as environmental factors including it stressfatigue, bad postures o reduced hours of sleep. Finally, cluster headache causes shorter painful attacks (1-3 hours) that are very intense and excruciating that follow one another 1 or more times a day for a period of time of about 2 months (cluster), alternating with pain-free periods. The affected area is that eye and, unlike the other two forms, cluster headache predominantly affects men. Typically, the episodes recur cyclically with a seasonal frequency or 1-2 periods a year.

It is important to arrive early

Estimates from the World Health Organization say headache affects one in two people with episodes occurring at least once a year. the problem manifests itself at any age. Over 40% of children suffer from headache while 10 out of 100 children suffer from migraine, a common form of primary headache. “Six million people, or 12% of the population, are those in Italy who suffer from migraine, a specific type of headache characterized by a throbbing pain with moderate-severe intensity which, often, is localized in the middle of the head and of the face – explains Alfredo Berardelli, President of SIN. It is such a debilitating pathology that it has been identified by the WHO as the disease that causes the greatest disability in the age group between 20 and 50 years, ie at the moment of life when we are most productive ”.

Really important numbers, for which one early diagnosis can really change the disease progression, as it avoids important consequences such as the chronicity of the disorder and drug abuse. “Thanks to the discovery of the mechanism from which migraine pain is generated – comments Paolo Calabresi, President of SISC – the new therapies based on monoclonal antibodies have now entered clinical practice and are recording an important step change in the treatment of prevention of migraine because these therapies reduce the number of attacks in the episodic form and are effective even in the most serious forms such as chronic migraine and that resistant to other drugs used previously. In addition to all these benefits, there are a very few side effects ”.

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Common headache and migraine, tips to understand the differences

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