How to Tell the Difference

Compared with a migraine, a tension-type headache is generally less severe and is rarely disabling. While the pain level for both can be mild to moderate, in the case of a migraine, it can sometimes be severe and even debilitating.

Migraine headaches can sometimes cause nausea and vomiting, which are generally not associated with a regular headache. And while a headache can (rarely) cause sensitivity to light or sounds, that symptom is more common with migraines.
Some people with migraines experience a more distinct warning sign called a migraine aura. Auras are usually visual but also can be sensory, motor or verbal disturbances. Visual auras are the most common. A visual aura is like an electrical or chemical wave that moves across the brain’s visual cortex. Auras aren’t the same for everyone. Some people experience bright spots or flashes. Auras are sometimes accompanied by a temporary partial loss of vision. They commonly last for 10 to 30 minutes.

Are you at risk? Risk factors for more severe, or daily, migraine include being female, having a BMI greater than 30, depression, caffeine use and high stress. If you are experiencing migraine symptoms, talk with your doctor.

Sources: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office on Women’s Health; Mayo Clinic.