Back to all discussions

Migraine or headache? Not sure...

I am new here. I am a 47 year old female.
20 years ago I stopped taking the birth control pill, because it gave me migraines. I was prescribed Maxalt before coming off the bc/pill (the link was not immediately made by the doctor)
Maxalt did relieve the pain somewhat, the pounding went away, but I remember still being in pain, albeit a more dull kind of pain. I also suffered badly from dizziness and extreme tiredness after taking the Maxalt.

20 years of just mild headeaches on, I am now 47, in peri-menopause, and the throbbing, one sided headaches are back. But are they migraines or headaches? I will describe my symptoms and hope someone with experience can help me diagnose myself.

Then pain is always one sided.

As in the past, the pain lasts 72 hours, but shifts in between from right to left, and back, at almost exact 24 hour intervals.

I feel nauseous, but still get hungry, and am able to keep my food down when I do eat.

On the side of the pain, my eye goes red and teary.

Light makes the pain worse. Noise also.

The difference with the pain from 20 years ago is that it is less severe. Sometimes going for a walk or cycle helps relieve the pain. In fact, lying down makes the pain and pounding worse.
When sitting up, I can still read, or do other things. I feel terrible, and sometimes have double vision, but still, I remember in the past all I could do was lie down in a dark room.
Hence my confusion...and I hope someone can help. I can 'function' in a way, ratrher than being bed-ridden, but the pain still ruins my life on those three days (that occur more often as time goes by)

The reason I ask is because I am quite apprehensive about taking Maxalt (or similar kind of medication) again because of the side effects, but also because I don't want to take it when 'all' I suffer from are 'plain' headaches...(so to speak)
No other pain killer relieves the pain to a significant extent btw, and because of the side-effects I often go without. But on some days, it's a real struggle (to put it mildly)

  1. I want to say it still sounds like migraines, but I'm not an expert. I am going through something similar and trying to find the answer as well.

    My situation is a little different, in that I have a family history of migraines and cluster headaches. I am 37 years old and have been off hormonal birth control for quite awhile because we've never been able to find a good fit. Either it triggers my migraines or triggers other issues.

    What I think is similar is that what I believe may be my migraines have changed recently. I get all the same symptoms as I did in the past, and up until 3 days ago I was skipping the actual headache part most days. I take a preventative, so I just figured that it was working mostly and keeping me from experiencing the headache on most occasions. There had been a few times when I would start to get a migraine and would take my Imitrex, which would stop it in it's tracks. 3 days ago I started with another headache that I can only describe as feeling like being stabbed with an ice-pick in my head. It's enough to make me stop in my tracks for a minute, but I can keep going afterwards. Stopping and sitting down or laying down makes it worse, so I keep moving. In between the stabs, I am getting what feels similar to my migraines but I don't feel the need to hide away in my bedroom. I can work through it. Again, stopping makes it worse. I feel better if I keep moving through it. The pain definitely moves from one side of the head to the other, so yesterday it was right sided and this afternoon left sided. Now I'm getting another "headache" and it's both sides.

    I'm afraid to keep taking my Imitrex for the headaches because they are happening so frequently that I am afraid of rebound headaches, so I am only trying to take them every other day. I have had to daily through these last 3 days though, but have only taken 1 each day.

    I apologize for not having an answer. I was being treated by my primary doctor, who I am seeing on Monday and will talk to about all this. I did end up calling a neurologist and getting set up as a new patient because I realized that I need to be followed by someone that specializes in headaches. I am also dealing with high blood pressure spikes along with these headaches.

    I will say that I have read that migraines can come on with the different stages of menopause. Maybe put in a call to your GYN?

    1. Hi Christa279,

      Thank you for sharing that with us and being part of the discussion forum - we're happy you're here!

      It's not uncommon for migraine patterns to change over time, and/or have more than one type of migraine and headache disorder. I'm not a medical professional, but you may want to discuss primary stabbing headache with your doctor;

      Also, seeing as you are having an increase in your attack frequency, you may want to discuss a change in your preventive dosage or adding something else to your medication regime. It's also not uncommon for people with migraine to take a combination of medications to prevent attacks - I do.

      Let me know how you make out,

  2. Hi primrosewoodmouse,

    Thank you for your question and being part of the discussion forum - we're glad you're here!

    As much as I wish I could tell you exactly what's going on, only a qualified doctor can do that. If you've not spoken with him/her, I would encourage you to do so at your earliest convenience. Once the doctor has given you a complete exam, discussed your symptoms, and gone over your medical history and your family's medical history he can diagnose you. For more on diagnosis, take a look at this article;

    Having said that, it's possible for migraine patterns to change over time and fluctuating hormones can be strong triggers for some of us. You may want to start keeping a detailed migraine journal to help identify other triggers, medications that work and/or don't work and any patterns your attacks have. All the migraine experts I've spoken with request their patients to do this. Here is information on how to keep a migraine diary;

    Let me know how you make out with the doctor,

    or create an account to reply.