5 Common Questions about Migraines

By Morgan deBlecourt
Updated April 26, 2023
A man holds his head

Migraines are more than just bad headaches, and they’re more common than most people think. Here, Timothy Collins, MD, a headache specialist at Duke, answers five common questions about migraines.

1. What Is a Migraine?

Migraines are a moderate to severe throbbing pain in the head (usually on one side, but sometimes both), that often includes nausea, dizziness, facial tingling or numbness, visual disturbances, or sensitivity to light, sound, or smell. They can happen as often as several days per week. Each person may have their own combination of symptoms, and they can change from one migraine to the next. 

2. What Causes Migraines?

While no one knows for sure why migraines happen, newer treatments target a specific protein that appears to contribute to migraines. Migraines are much more common in women, which suggests that hormones like estrogen may play a role. A genetic link may also increase your risk, as migraines appear to run in families. Researchers continue to search for the root cause of migraines. 

3. Will Migraines Get Better Over Time?

The good news is that most people with migraines have fewer headaches as they get older. But this is not guaranteed, which is why your doctor will likely recommend treatment now rather than wait.

4. Are Migraines Damaging My Brain?

No. Migraine headaches do not cause any damage to your brain or head, even when they are severe. 

5. What's the Best Treatment for Migraines?

Fortunately, there are many medications available for headache treatment. But while every medication is right for someone, that someone might not be you. Your doctor may have you try several different medications to find the right one. 

Although there is no definitive test for migraine, neurologists and headache specialists can help sort through your headache symptoms, severity, frequency, and other characteristics to determine whether migraine is the right diagnosis and to recommend a treatment plan.

Dr. Collins is a neurologist and headache specialist with more than more than 25 years of experience treating migraines and other headache disorders.