Average Headache or Migraine?

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38-year-old Melissa Ridenour was diagnosed with migraines seven years ago.

"The first migraine I got woke me up out of a dead sleep like somebody hit me with a sledgehammer," she says.

"It's just a pounding pounding," says 46-year-old Elizabeth Rider.

She had a headache that started three years ago and never went away.

"I feel it in the back of my neck. It runs up the back of my spine, and then it ends up in a headache," Rider explains.

The Mayo clinic estimates 28 million American suffer from migraines. That's roughly 1 in 10 people.

"To be a migraine all you need is a severe enough headache to get your attention, light or sound sensitivity, and or nausea. If you have two out of three of those three, it's probably a migraine," says neurologist Dr. Edmund Messina of Michigan Headache Treatment Network.

Migraines are caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain.

Dr. Messina explains, "The brain gets very sensitized and starts firing signals. Some of them can produce speech difficulties or visual changes and of course pain."

"You can't function with the pounding. You can't think straight. You don't want to carry on a conversation. You just need to go lay down," says Ridenour.

The disorder is hereditary with symptoms usually starting after puberty.

Dr. Messina adds, "The estrogen cycle is a trigger of women of childbearing age [they] are the key group to get migraines."

He says limiting stress, eating right, and prescription drugs can help lessen the problem. And on another positive note, the disorder isn't lifelong. It typically goes away after age 60.

Sparrow Hospital is holding a free event called "Headache Help." It's scheduled for Tuesday, June 5th from 7-8:30pm. Dr. Messina will be talking and answering questions about migraines. For more information call Sparrow HealthLine at 1-888-7WE-HEAL.

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