menu search

Take the Migraine Quiz

Many new studies show that a variety of factors — including sleep, gender, exercise, and serotonin levels in your brain — affect the brain’s susceptibility to migraines. Take this quiz to see how much you know about migraine headaches. From The Migraine Brain: Your Breakthrough Guide to Fewer Headaches, Better Health, by Carolyn Bernstein, M.D., and Elaine McArdle

True or False?
1. Migraine is just a type of headache.

2. People with migraines have a low pain tolerance.

3. Migraine can be fatal.

4. Migraine attacks include weird visual changes like flashing lights before your eyes.

5. People with migraines are more likely to be depressed.

6. Migraine attacks tend to peak when you’re in your thirties and forties.

7. Chocolate, red wine, and bananas cause migraines.

8. Women get migraines more than men.

9. Children rarely get migraines.

10. Migraine pain is always felt on only one side of the head.

Answers

1. Migraine is just a type of headache.
False.
This is the single biggest misunderstanding about migraine. Migraine is a neurological illness caused by an abnormality in your brain chemistry. A migraine attack almost always includes at least several physical reactions, sometimes dozens of symptoms. Headache is just one of migraine’s many possible symptoms.

2. People with migraines have a low pain tolerance.
False.
Actually, studies show that people with migraine develop a very high pain tolerance since the head pain is typically severe and they learn to function despite it.

3. Migraine can be fatal.
False.
Migraine usually is a benign illness: once the migraine attack is over, the symptoms go away and there’s normally no lasting medical effect. But migraineurs often are so sick they feel like they’re dying: 75 percent report the pain as severe to extremely severe. This is how one patient describes her attacks: “Imagine the worst seasickness you’ve ever had, with violent vomiting and then endless dry heaves. And horrible pain in your head, like an iron pole being thrust in and out of your eyeball with each beat of your heart.”

4. Migraines attacks include weird visual changes like flashing lights before your eyes.
Not for everyone.
Fewer than 20 percent of migraineurs get visual changes during a migraine attack.

5. People with migraines are more likely to be depressed.
True.
People with migraines have a higher incidence of depression. Even between migraine attacks, they report a lower quality of life than people with diabetes, hypertension, osteoarthritis, or asthma. The more migraine attacks they get, the lower their sense of well-being.

6. Migraine attacks tend to peak when you’re in your thirties and forties.
True
—sort of. For many people, migraine attacks typically peak when they’re in their thirties and forties, just when life is at its most demanding—when you’re juggling work, kids, aging parents, and finances. But here’s an important rule about migraines: there aren’t many rules. Each person’s migraine profile is different in its symptoms, triggers, and the treatments that work, as well as the point during his or her life span when migraines are at their worst. Most women patients begin getting migraines around the time of puberty, but I have patients who never got migraines until they were in their fifties or older. Others got migraines as children that went away when they reached their teens.

7. Chocolate, red wine, and bananas cause migraine attacks.
False.
First of all, foods or other factors don’t cause migraines— abnormal brain chemistry causes migraines. But for some people, certain foods can set off or trigger that abnormal brain chemistry. This is true of only a minority of people, however, recent research shows. The foods—if any—that trigger migraines vary from one person to the next.

8. Women get more migraines than men.
True
—by a 3 to 1 ratio. While some of this has to do with women’s menstrual cycles, a new study out of UCLA suggests that women’s brains may be more susceptible to excitation—meaning they react more easily to stimuli—than men’s brains, leading to the chemical chain reaction believed to cause migraines.

9. Children rarely get migraines.
False.
One in twenty grade school children gets migraines (although they may get what we call “abdominal migraines,” which are stomachaches without any headache), and 15 percent of high school students get them.

10. Migraine pain is always on one side of the head only.
False.
For most people, migraine headaches are usually felt on one side of the head, but this isn’t true for everyone. Some feel pain on both sides of the face or head, or on the top of their heads, or in the back of the head or neck.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS
Carolyn Bernstein,M.D., co-author of The Migraine Brain (Copyright © 2008 by Carolyn Bernstein, M.D. and Elaine McArdle), is an assistant professor of neurology at Harvard Medical School and a staff neurologist at Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts. A board-certified neurologist, Dr. Bernstein belongs to the American Academy of Neurology. In 2006, Dr. Bernstein won the Harvard Medical School Faculty Prize for Teaching Excellence, and in 2007, she was the recipient of the Leonard Tow Award for Humanism in Medicine given by Harvard Medical School and the Arnold Gold Foundation. In 2007, she also won the National Headache Foundation’s Headache Healthcare Provider of the Year. In 2006, Dr. Bernstein opened her own headache clinic for women, the Women’s Headache Center at Cambridge Health Alliance.

Elaine McArdle, co-author of The Migraine Brain (Copyright © 2008 by Carolyn Bernstein, M.D. and Elaine McArdle), is an award-winning journalist, lawyer with a degree from Vanderbilt Law School, and migraineur who for twenty years has been writing for newspapers and magazines, including The Boston Globe, Boston magazine, and many others.

LEARN MORE

MORE FROM AROUND THE WEB

Powered by Zergnet