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Migraine Headache

What is Migraine Headache?

A migraine headache can be debilitating, with intense pulsing or throbbing pain on one side of the head that can last from a few hours to several days. Migraines are three times more common in women than in men, and it is estimated that they affect more than 10% of the population worldwide. Pain often is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraines can impact an individual’s ability to carry out daily activities and negatively affect overall quality of life.

Causes of Migraine

While the exact cause of migraine headache is unknown, patients tend to have recurring attacks that can be triggered by stress, hormonal changes, alcohol, weather changes, lack of food or sleep, and certain types of food. Migraine in some women may relate to changes in hormone levels during the menstrual cycle. Because of its strong tendency to run in families, researchers now believe that migraine has a genetic cause.

Diagnosis and Symptoms of Migraine Headaches

Some migraine sufferers report feeling subtle symptoms before the headache begins, including moodiness, a stiff neck, and fatigue. About a third of affected individuals can predict the onset of a migraine by the occurrence of an “aura,” a visual disturbance that appear as flashing lights, zigzag lines, or a temporary loss of vision.

While the symptoms and frequency of migraine headache vary from patient to patient, the most common symptoms are throbbing and pulsing pain on one side of the head; nausea, vomiting, and/or loss of appetite; light, sound, and smell sensitivity; dizziness and/or lightheadedness; and fatigue.

There are no diagnostic or laboratory tests that can confirm migraine headache. The disorder is diagnosed clinically based upon the frequency, severity, and duration of the headaches as described by the patient. After a complete physical and neurological exam, your doctor may order imaging tests, such as a CT scan or MRI, to rule out other causes of headache.


Treatment for migraine focuses either on prevention, involving medications and lifestyle changes, or on the relief of symptoms. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has approved erenumab (Aimovig®) to prevent migraine in adults. Drugs originally developed for epilepsy, depression, or high blood pressure have been shown to be effective in the prevention of chronic migraine. Botulinum toxin A (Botox®) injections also have been effective in prevention of chronic migraine. Your doctor may suggest that you keep a personal log of your migraines and their suspected triggers to avoid them in the future. Sumatriptan, ergotamine drugs, ibuprofen, and aspirin can be effective for relief of symptoms.

The Face Pain and Headache Clinic at UTHealth Neurosciences brings together a multidisciplinary team of board-certified, fellowship-trained neurosurgeons, neurologists, researchers, and pain management specialists who work together to provide relief for even the most complex problems. People who suffer from migraine, cluster headache, trigeminal neuralgia, hemifacial spasm, pineal cyst, and other disorders benefit from collaborative, highly specialized expertise focused on managing chronic headaches and face pain.

What You Can Expect at UTHealth Neurosciences

At UTHealth Neurosciences, neurologists, neurosurgeons, neuro-oncologists, neuropathologists, interventional pain management specialists, and radiation oncologists work together to determine the care each patient needs, discussing treatment options as a group. This approach saves our patients time and money and allows our specialists to share each other’s insights, leading to better treatment decision-making and outcomes.

We first investigate options for nonsurgical treatment, including medical management, pain management, physical therapy, rehabilitation, and watchful waiting. When surgery is needed, our neurosurgeons routinely employ innovative minimally invasive techniques. Throughout the treatment process, our team works closely with the doctor who referred you to ensure a smooth transition back to your regular care plan. While you are with us, you can expect expert care, excellent communication, and genuine compassion.

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Contact Us

At UTHealth Neurosciences, we offer patients access to specialized neurological care at clinics across the greater Houston area. To ask us a question, schedule an appointment, or learn more about us, please click below to send us a message. In the event of an emergency, call 911 or go to the nearest Emergency Room.