Are Migraines Dangerous?

Are migraines dangerous?  When you start getting all those crazy symptoms of migraine, not to mention the explosive, drilling, pulsating pain, it’s easy to start wondering what kind of damage it’s doing to your body.  Will I have brain damage?  Is this going to cause mental illness?  Do I have a tumour?

Are Migraines Dangerous?

Because of this, we tend to swing back and forth between reassuring patients, and then encouraging them to get treatment.

In other words, if a doctor tells you it’s not serious, you may be more likely to "make do" with some painkillers.  If your doctor tells you it’s serious, you might panic and take something you shouldn’t, or simply end up with extra stress.

But somewhere in here, isn’t it important that patients also know the truth?

Now, keep reading, because I do want to give you some helpful information.  But I’m afraid when you ask Are Migraines Dangerous?, the answer is – yes, no, and we don’t know.

Are migraines dangerous?  I would prefer to ask Is migraine dangerous?, because migraine is a disease whereas, technically, individual migraine attacks can happen to anyone.  And if you have an isolated attack, there’s no question – you need to go to a doctor right away.  Any time you have a different or worst-ever headache, you go to the doctor because it could be very dangerous.

So let’s go on and talk about migraine in general.  If you’re asking if migraine could shorten your life, increase risk of other diseases, and significantly decrease your "quality of life", the answer is YES.  Migraine can be very dangerous.

Consider comorbid conditions.  Consider the possible increased risk of stroke and heart disease.  Consider the impact of the severe pain, nausea, and other symptoms of migraine on your body.  Consider the hours when you’re not productive, when you’re not even able to get out of bed.  What does that do to your job, your relationships?

I’m not suggesting the migraineur can’t overcome these things and have a great life.  But I am suggesting that migraine is worth taking the time to treat.  You should not just make do with migraine – it can indeed be dangerous.

This doesn’t even get into the question of how migraine can progress.  It seems that migraine does do some increasing damage to your body over time, and there’s some debate over how migraine may become more and more dangerous over time.

Is migraine dangerous?  Well, on the other hand, it likely isn’t as serious as your body seems to be telling you.  In other words, you may feel like you’re going to die during an attack, but you probably won’t (again, if this is a worst-ever attack – see your doctor right away).  You’re probably going to be all right.  And there is good treatment available to help you deal with future attacks, or even avoid them.

Even the risk of stroke and heart disease needs to be balanced – your risk may increase, but that doesn’t mean tomorrow is heart attack day.

In the end, there’s still a lot we don’t know.  Frankly, we’re still trying to understand just how dangerous migraine really is.

How can we summarize?  Let me say it this way.  Is migraine dangerous?  If you mean is this attack going to kill me right now (or do serious damage), the answer is: probably not.  If you’re asking about long term life impact of migraine disease – yes, it is.  That may not mean an early death, but it does mean a very significant impact on your life.

Back to what we should do – just a reminder:

  • If you have a different or worst-ever headache, see a doctor right away – it probably isn’t very dangerous, but there’s enough of a chance that it could be.
  • Don’t add to your stress during a migraine attack.  This attack alone is probably not going to do serious long-term damage.  You will feel better!  (I recognize some people have pain all the time – that’s a different story, because it may take a lot of time and treatment before you feel better.  We need to be honest about that!  Still, only one day of pain is not going to finish you off.)
  • Over time, migraine may be dangerous.  We don’t fully understand how dangerous.  But it can have a very significant impact on your life.  Don’t put off getting good treatment, because it can do damage to your body and life.  Too many people delay too long, when they could have had good treatment.

Learn more about what actually happens during a migraine attack here.

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18 comments… add one
  • Diana Mar 21, 2011

    The other thing I’d mention in this discussion is that we know that untreated migraine attacks can become worse over time and more likely to morph into chronic migraine. So one of the best things we can do is seek treatment, preferably with triptans, if we’re someone who experiences occasional migraine attacks.

  • Fiona Mar 23, 2011

    Now, something that worked like a miracle for me, after all my pain and agony, after fearful nights and analyzing and reanalyzing finally something that actually helped me after I got the migraine.
    I started taking MAGNESIUM supplement 500 mg everyday.
    But the discovery of this miracle element came in one night when I was sick with cold and I decided to miss the supplement thinking I was already pumped enough medicine in my stomach. I hadn’t gone the doctor so I was just taking paracetomol and a syrup that helps in cold. I landed up taking this syrup just before sleeping and that caused acidity and got me the migraine. I was scared shit in the night, first I have cold and soar throat and here comes the monster. Then I saw my MAGNESIUM supplement on the table. I was in the aura phase where I had started to get numbness in my hands and face. I decided I had enough of this migraine bullshit, jumped over the bed ran to the kitchen for some water and just popped in one pill of MAgnesium. Then I prayed.
    Here is what happened in the next 5 min, the numbness vanished and head did not get heavy. After 15 min I felt very slight pain on the right side of my head…..but that was it. I This pain was very very mild and I could only feel it if I moved my head. I slept peacefully.
    I did not have to call in SICK. I was thankful to GOD that finally I have found the cure to my migraines.
    STRESS, ACIDITY all deplete MAGNESIUM in your body and if you are sensitive to this drop you suffer migraines.
    I hope no one ever has to suffer a migraine after reading this article.
    Live a HAPPY and PEACEFUL life, include MAGNESIUM in your diet

  • Aurora Mar 28, 2011

    Oh yes, migraine is dangerous when it is the only thing that rules your life and you can’t do anything about it. I once had a session with my GP and the only thing he could offer was a Kleenex. Everytime i had an attack, I thought it was the end, I would never wake up…I am sticking with Magnesium (took away the nausea factor in my attacks) and gluten free diet (made the attacks milder and fewer). But the issue that I am coping with right now is my sleeping pattern. After so many years of sleeping abnormally or not sleeping at all because of migraine headaches, my circadian clock is now in shambles.

  • morgan stone May 31, 2011

    i use magnisium and muscle relaxers and it seems to help my doc told me bought magnisium when i was pregnant becasue they got so much worse it helps alot dosent take them away but they get mild evrey person will be diffrent w what helps i find that much dosent or it just makes it easier to get threw the day there is a new migraine med on the market threw a doctor i will get the info and share it

  • raine Mar 8, 2012

    hi! i am a 19 yrs old with this so called migraine! it really sucks! add the fact that im working on BPO Industry as Customer Care Rep. and getting only at least 4-6 hours of sleep! i consider my self lucky when i got at least 6 hrs! my attending physician told me not to drink coffee and chocolate! because it triggers my migraine? ****! i think this is all crazzzy and stupid. i am too young to be restricted for these stuffs. that’s why i hated this scrap Pain!

  • demi Dec 11, 2012

    thanks for sharin this in such a clear way 🙂 i lyk it. good job

  • MJ Dec 18, 2012

    I have been having headaches off and on now for about the past 2 weeks. I have been doing research on the internet to have more knowledge about this issue. Ok so my question is I am on Bystolic (a blood pressure medication) 10 mg which that is one of the side effects, but I have been on them for a while, and now all of a sudden I am getting headaches. I guess I need to know when should you see a doctor to determine if they really are headaches or something else? I have no other symptoms such as vomiting or upset stomach. I have been under a lot of stress. I did call my doctor to let him know I was having heachaches and asked him what I could take over the counter, he didn’t seem to concerned. So where do I go from here? Please I will take any advice to help these go away. Thank you

  • toni dopkosky Jan 22, 2013

    i dont get the severe headache but i get the eye migrain with the aura.i lose my sight for at least AN HOUR its very scary. ive been under alot of stress during the holidays and the sessions have been more frequenf. i went to a specialist today and found out what they are for the first time.iv been getting them for about 50 yrs and no doctor could diagnose it correctly.i finally know what ive been dealing with all this now i can go on from here. there is no cure i know of just deal with it.

  • Daniela Jul 19, 2013

    I do have chronic migraine for years – so lucky to have couple to a few days with no headache a month some months not so lucky …
    Chocolate or coffee do not trigger my migraine but stress and atmospheric pressure yes…
    I try to not let this terrible pain take over my life but some times it is not as easy
    All medication I used are becoming obsolete in about a year as my body becomes resistant and my physician needs to find a replacement
    To give you a little hope: I started an acupuncture treatment bout 2 moths ago and for the first time in ten years I had about 2 weeks with NO PAIN…(after a month and a half of 2 session of an hour and a half per week ) so you can try this if you do find a good acupuncturist.

  • Selena Dec 20, 2014

    There are a few types of migraine disorder that actually are deadly, although they are more rare than others. There is also the chance of migrainous stroke. But most often, no, they won’t kill you.

  • Me Feb 18, 2015

    I just had my first attack today at age 23 lasted for 20 minutes the zip zag colour spectrum in both my eyes I thought I was going blind and straight afterwards I’m left with this.huge headache and pain killers do not work… But I’ll be trying the magnesium tablets and going to see my doc.

  • Lisa Ballard Powell Feb 21, 2015

    My headaches always start on the right side of my head, (90%) starting in the muscle that runs up the back of my neck. The average Migraine lasts for 36 – 48 hours with an extra day or two to get healthy enough to function. I also throw up with the majority of my headaches.
    I have had Migraines at least since college, maybe sooner. When I would go the hospital they would give me a shot of Demerol and Visiril . Sometimes it wouldn’t work and they would have to give me a second shot. Pretty soon I was labeled a “drug seeker” and would be left to sit in a cubicle until I was dying from the pain. They would not give me anything narcotic and they adopted a take it or leave it attitude – even if I would have my personal doctor call in to talk to the ER staff. I felt so abused by the attitudes of the staff that I stopped going to the ER, at all. Just stuck it out at home.
    I have found that Maxalt works well, for me. The secret is to take it as soon as you feel an inkling of a possible Migraine coming on. I don’t have auras, but my my eyes are extremely sensitive. And it’s hard to function on your own for any reason. I forget what the generic name for Maxalt is, but it is one of the triptans.
    In some ways Migraines have ruined my life. I’ve lost jobs, knew I could never handle having children and gone out with men who don’t want to be with a Migraine sufferer. The best experience I ever had was in Palm Springs ER. I was trying to describe the severity of the pain, etc. When he told me he also was challenged by Migraines I wanted to yell, “thank you, God.” I knew I wouldn’t be degraded.
    I’m sure this was TMI – but ask abou the Maxalt.
    I wish you the best!

  • sara May 26, 2016

    I have a severe migraine getting started with left side of my head..and it lasts for 2 3 days..for this I usually take 5-6 painkillers to reduce the pain..does taking such a high amount of these painkillers have a side effects ? or does it prove fata ?

  • Eyeric Aug 2, 2016

    Yeah.i felt the same way. It was started a long time ago when i was in highschool and now im 31 year old and a registered nurse. I remembered an aura as defined as moving lights,shapes, colors in my eyes for few minutes then followed by pounding headcahes. oh my god its terrible feelings. I dont really know what to do to relieve this horrible situation.I searched on internet what causes it and the treatment.Then i came to the doctor to find a solution in it but they just gave me diclofenac as pain reliever. What i conclude, it is correct what the medical expert said that is all about blood supply in the brain that connects to the you need to be careful if you have hypertension. You need to see your doctor right a way cause it is possibly the reason. Stress, climate, fatigue, over work,inappropriate light, foods like: cheese,caffeinated,chocolates,skip of meal can trigger but the most is cardiovascular disease and maybe a tumor. Dont ignore a simple aura cause aura can reccur on the other day and give damage to your eye like as mine.Some portion of my vission has spot after 2 days of migraine -aura..Migraine has a great damage to our daily life .No body wants to have it so, BE AWARE OF MIGRAINE -AURA.

  • Sharon lavin Jul 12, 2017

    Hi know 46 and suffer a migraine at least once a week, but I have had one every second day this week making it four now. I go numb on my right arm and hand, I my eyes go all flickery and blurred. Should I be worried about this as it only last half a hour ?

  • Viranga Jul 19, 2017

    My friend is suffering from this problem its sucks…couldn’t it be cured???is there any medicine or surgery for this plz let me know..thank you

  • Sarah Aug 17, 2017

    Hi so I was diagnosed with Alice in Wonderland migraines by my primary care doctor a while ago but nothing was done about it and I don’t even feel many of the main symptoms of that. Lately, I’ve been having these weird symptoms: word searching-vision episodes where things will either go completely blurry or totally black on and off -worst migraine ever in right side of head (been going on for 38 days but keeps getting worse. It feels like the right side of my brain is 5 sizes too big and still growing. It’s a throbbing pain with some sharp pains on and off) pain is worse in morning, when lying down, and when move my head-exhaustion! -clumsiness (more than normal) -on/off clinginess (going from normal to childish) -mood swings -overall feeling different/weird -forgetting everything -nausea -upper back pain on right side where shoulder bone is (not sure if related) -bruising easily(not sure if related) -left side going numb on and off -waking up due to pain and nausea -meds not helping head -hair coming out -bleeding taking longer to stop -low grade fevers -pimple started 3 days before headache and still here (not sure if related) -not hungry -weakness all over -occasional slurred speech -confusion -a jittery dizziness
    I saw a doctor 5 days into this and he told me to take more ibuprofen and that it wasn’t time for a CT scan yet. He did a very minimal exam. Things have changed since then and gotten so much worse. However, I’m not affected by the things I typically am during a migraine (light, sound, tastes, etc.) and nothing will help. I’ve tried ibuprofen, alieve, tylenol, excedrin, ice, heat, pressure, massage, rest, teas, relaxation, distraction, xanax, not using electronics, and pretty much everything else I can think of. It keeps getting worse. What else should I try? My parents don’t want to take me to the doctor again, but is it normal to have a migraine for 38 days that keeps worsening?

    • Amanda Oct 17, 2017

      You need to see a neurologist to get your migraines under control. The longer your migraine persists without treatment it will turn into Chronic Migraines. If the pain gets so bad go to the ER. Make sure to document every thing. Don’t take pills just because the doctor gives them to you. You could have terrible side effects. I had extremely bad side effects from antidepressants that we’re prescribed to me for the migraines. Also don’t take predisone if it’s prescribed. Make sure to research every thing. Try to not take so much pain killers as it could cause a rebound migraine.

      Best wishes I hope you feel better

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