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Glossary

A type of migraine in which the pain is over the upper part of the abdomen and lasts for a few hours. It is most common in female children. Diagnosis is easy because sufferers usually have a family history of migraine, infrequent attacks and simultaneous occurrence of headache. If it remains undiagnosed, however, the patient may be subjected to unnecessary surgery for abdominal complaints.

 

An ancient Chinese procedure that blocks pain by stimulating nerves. It is based on the theory that a counter-irritant (puncturing) prevents painful impulses from traveling up the spinal cord and thereby blocks them.

Drugs that reduce the perception of pain by raising a patient's pain threshold. They are not cures for pain; they simply mask it. Analgesics range from plain aspirin or acetaminophen to narcotics, such as morphine and Demerol.

A weakness in the blood vessel wall that balloons out and may rupture. Aneurysms rarely cause symptoms before the rupture unless they are large, and they do not mimic the symptoms of migraine or cluster headache. It is vital to discover aneurysms before they rupture and have catastrophic consequences, such as paralysis or death.

Warnings that usually occur just a few minutes before the onset of a migraine attack. They may take the form of a feeling of elation, a clearer awareness of color, variations in mood, an increase in energy, or a feeling of hunger or thirst. Conversely, some patients may get a feeling of depression. Classical auras can be positive, as in visions of bright lights or stars, or lines resembling forts (known as fortification spectra). They also can be negative, as in seeing blind spots or only part of the visual field. The warnings may also distort figures or shapes. Some people get a tingling, pins-and-needles sensation in one arm or leg (paresthesias), while others describe a strange odor. 

A type of migraine that occurs in younger people in which the headache is most often limited to the back of the head. The symptoms are caused by a diminished blood supply to the parts of the brain supplied by the basilar artery. Patients may have nausea, double vision, unsteady gait, slurred speech and confusion. During the acute headache, many lose consciousness. Often these patients are mistakenly thought to be drunk or mentally ill. A previous history of migraine is helpful in making the diagnosis.

An effective non-medicinal method of managing headache (both migraine and tension-type) in which sufferers learn to control body functions that were previously thought to be involuntary. The patient becomes integrally involved in his or her own headache treatment. Patients practice relaxation techniques, such as warming of the hands and muscle relaxation, with the aid of instruments for measuring temperature and muscle tension. Some biofeedback techniques monitor brain wave activity. After repeated practice, the patient gradually learns to recognize physiological sensations or body cues that allow the elimination of the measuring instruments.

An involuntary grinding or clenching of the teeth, either by day or night, that can be triggered by dental malocclusion, stress or worry. This muscular over-activity sometimes gives rise to muscle spasm and headache. Most often, these headaches are classified as tension-type.

Patients with a history of migraine who experience pain more than half of the time. This condition was previously called transformed migraine.

A brief, one-sided headache usually occurring in or around one eye and lasting several minutes to several hours in duration. The headache is called cluster because it occurs in a group or series. The patient typically has tearing of the eye, nasal congestion, facial flushing and constriction of the pupil on the side of the headache. The series may last several months, occurring more frequently in the fall and spring, and then disappear for several months or years. Some forms of cluster headache, however, occur chronically.

A brain injury that may result in a bad headache, altered levels of alertness or unconsciousness. Headaches due to a concussion will usually diminish with the passage of time.

Short for computerized axial tomography of the brain. This process combines multiple X-rays into a single picture. It enables the physician to obtain a series of pictures of the brain without invading the brain itself. It is used primarily to rule out organic disease, such as a tumor or bleeding in the brain, as a cause of the headache problem.

Patients with cyclic migraine usually experience 10 or more attacks per month. These headaches differ from cluster in that they are long lasting and do not have associated cluster symptoms. Patients do have typical migraine symptoms during these headaches.

A common complication for migraine patients with frequent attacks. Patients with chronic pain syndromes are often markedly depressed. This emotional state can be the cause of a daily, unrelenting headache that peaks in the morning and late afternoon. It is often accompanied by a sleep disturbance in the form of frequent and early waking.

An inflammation of the brain, usually caused by a bacteria or virus. The bacteria type can be treated with antibiotics. The viral type can cause continual headache as well as permanent neurological problems after the infection has subsided.

A group of headache syndromes that is associated with physical activity. These headaches typically become severe very quickly after strenuous activity. Exertional (exertion) headaches can, in some instances, be a sign of abnormalities in the brain or other diseases. Activities that can precipitate these headaches include running, coughing, sneezing, sexual intercourse and straining with bowel movements.

A very rare form of migraine in which there is paralysis of the arm or leg on one side of the body. The paralysis can occur before, during or after the onset of a headache. There is frequently a family history of headaches with similar types of attacks. The attack is usually temporary, but may be prolonged and cause some permanent paralysis.

A normal substance in the body that is released when tissues are injured. Histamine has been implicated as a causative factor in cluster headache. It is also considered a provocative factor in migraine headaches. If histamine is given to a migraine patient, it can provoke a migraine-like headache.

A type of treatment in which the therapist puts the patient into an altered level of consciousness. The objective manifestations of the mind become inactive, enabling the patient to relax and forget his or her head pain. Hypnosis has not been found to be an effective therapy for patients with cluster headaches.

A diagnostic test that visualizes the brain and its surrounding structures without using radiation, dye or other invasive techniques. The test uses computers and powerful magnets to create multiple layered images of the brain for interpretation by a radiologist.

An inflammation of the brain coverings that is almost always associated with headache. The inflammation causes a stiff neck and high temperature. Immediate care is necessary. The headache is not chronic, but it is acute.

A type of migraine headache women get exclusively with their periods or at ovulation. A drop in estrogen levels during these times may be a precipitating cause. Menstrual migraine can be adequately treated with small doses of ergotamine or anti-inflammatory drugs prior to and during the woman's period.

A vascular headache that is most common between the ages of 15 and 55. A high percentage of sufferers have a family history. Many factors can trigger migraine attacks, such as alteration of sleep-wake cycle; missing or delaying a meal; medications that cause a swelling of the blood vessels; daily or near daily use of medications designed to relieve headache attacks; bright lights, sunlight, fluorescent lights, TV and movie viewing; certain foods; and excessive noise. Migraine characteristics can include pain on one side of the head, pain that has a pulsating or throbbing quality, moderate to intense pain that affects daily activities, nausea or vomiting, sensitivity to light or sound, attacks that last four to 72 hours, and visual disturbances or aura.

A type of migraine that elicits a warning or aura prior to the acute attack. The aura is typically a visual abnormality lasting 10 to 30 minutes, and the headache usually follows immediately.

A common food additive that can cause headaches or other symptoms in susceptible people. It is often added to Chinese foods, processed meats and tenderizers. Headache symptoms typically occur within 30 minutes of ingesting MSG, as it is rapidly absorbed by the stomach. Although the headache chiefly affects the temples, there may also be perspiration, tightness, and pressure over the face and chest.

The injection of a local anesthetic (numbing) drug around a nerve to temporarily inactivate it. This procedure is usually used for the treatment of pain, chronic pain, dental pain or suturing lacerations. A nerve block usually has an effect on other sensations as well.

The rapid development (over fewer than three days) of an unrelenting headache. Most sufferers can recall the exact day the headache started and have experienced daily headaches since that time. NDPH typically occurs in a person with no past history of headache. It does not evolve from migraine or episodic tension type headache but begins as a new problem.

Nitrates are used to treat coronary heart disease, and nitrites are used as food additives to prevent botulism in meats. Both of these substances can increase vasodilation and thus increase the tendency toward migraine attacks.

A type of migraine attack that occursduring the middle of the night or in the early morning hours. This headache often awakens the patient from sleep.

The occipital nerve transversing the back of the head can cause unilateral head pain with radiation to the temporal area. These symptoms can be precipitated by injury, overlaying muscle tension or anatomic variations.

A rare type of headache that occurs in children or young adults. It is associated with paralysis of the third nerve, and there may be drooping of the eyelid, dilation of the pupils and paralysis of the eye muscles. This is a temporary type of migraine, and patients usually have a family history of similar attacks.

A headache that occurs in some patients following brain surgery. The symptoms are similar to post-traumatic headache.

A headache that is the result of head injury. It might persist for months or years following even mild head trauma. Although it is most frequently associated with a variety of symptoms—such as dizziness, insomnia, difficulties in concentration and mood, and personality changes—headache dominates the clinical picture. In most patients, the frequency and severity of the headache diminishes with the passage of time, and the headache usually disappears within six to 12 months.

A daily headache that is caused by the overuse of medications.

A chemical substance primarily present in the platelets. It is a potent constrictor of the blood vessels and is thought to be involved in the mechanism of migraine.

A headache that is associated with sexual activity, especially orgasm. There are two types of these headaches. In the first type, the excitement accompanying intercourse causes muscle contraction in the head and neck, thus leading to head pain. The second type is a vascular headache. It is a very intense, severe headache usually occurring just before orgasm. It has been called an "orgasmic headache" or "orgasmic cephalalgia." The pain may be located around or behind the eyes. It usually lasts a few minutes, but can last for hours and is usually made worse by movement.

A headache following an upper respiratory infection that blocks the sinuses. The pain is caused by a stretching in the lining of the open cavities and the formation of pus within the sinuses. The area affected by sinus headache is usually above the eyes (frontal sinus) or below the eyes (maxillary sinus). Chronic sinus disease rarely causes head pain. Acute sinusitis, associated with fever and blocked sinus, can cause acute head pain.

The most commonly recognized trigger of headaches. Migraine sufferers are thought to be highly responsive emotionally, so they react quickly to stress. In times of emotional pressure, chemicals are released that provoke vascular changes and cause a migraine headache. Factors related to stress include anxiety, worry, shock, depression, excitement and mental fatigue.

A non-specific headache that is not vascular or migrainous and is not related to organic disease. It is caused by a tightening of the muscles at the back of the neck, or in the face and scalp. This is a steady, mild headache, and is sometimes described as occurring in a hat-band distribution around the head. It can be episodic and is usually best treated with aspirin or acetaminophen compounds.

A sudden, severe headache that may mimic a thunderclap in its intensity and severity. Some researchers think it may be a warning of an impending rupture of an aneurysm or weak blood vessel. Other researchers disagree with this opinion.

A naturally occurring substance in the protein of the body that is also found in certain foods and beverages. Ingestion of these foods can cause more frequent migraine attacks.

A group of headache conditions in which blood vessel dilation or swelling is the major component in the production of pain. The blood vessels in the tissues surrounding the head swell and become distended, so the normal pulsation of the vessels causes a throbbing type of pain. Migraine headaches, cluster headaches and toxic headaches are all included under the classification of vascular headaches.

A narrowing or clamping down of a blood vessel.

A swelling or distention of a blood vessel.

A headache precipitated by oversleeping, reduced caffeine consumption or changing behaviors on weekend days.

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