There’s a common perception out there that migraines are just bad headaches. How migraine headaches can affect a person’s work, lifestyle, family and relationships is often misunderstood.

The pain of migraines often makes functioning and completing everyday tasks impossible.

If you suffer from migraine headaches then you’re not alone. It’s estimated that 6% of men and 18% of women suffer from migraines. Although migraines can run in the family, they affect people of all ages and races.

So what’s behind all that pain?

Migraines are what’s known as “vascular” headaches, meaning that their source is the contraction and dilation of blood vessels. When naturally occurring brain chemicals are present in abnormal amounts, small blood vessels in the scalp and skull contract and become very sensitive.

Blood pressure increases and that’s when the pain begins. Throbbing starts, usually behind or above one eye and spreads to one side of the head. For some people, pain begins at the back of the head and spreads around one side of the head.

Types of migraines

Migraines are usually divided into two categories:

1) Migraine without aura

2) Migraine with aura

In the case of migraines, there’s nothing spiritual about an aura. The word ‘aura’ refers to the sensory or visual distortions that can sometimes precede a migraine.

Most migraines, about 80%, don’t have an aura, these used to be called common migraines.

Migraine with aura are characterised by a 15-60 minute period of sensory or visual aura before the migraine begins.

For some people, this aura is visual, and can literally involve seeing stars, sparks, or flashing lights in front their eyes.

Sensory aura can take the form of speech distortion, muscle weakness, and disturbances of other senses besides vision, such as peculiar smells, strange tastes in the mouth, odd noises and a tingling feeling in one arm or on one side of the face.