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Understand and manage migraines

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Did you know that migraine headaches affect nearly 40 million people in the United States?1

What is a migraine?

Migraines are painful, throbbing headaches that last from 4 to 72 hours. Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, or sensitivity to light, sound and smells. They may also include visual auras, such as flashing lights or a C-shaped object, and sensory auras, such as tingling in the arms or face.

In some cases, having a migraine may affect a person’s ability to perform their usual activities. And although there isn’t a cure for migraines, they can be treated or prevented.

Find treatment, feel better

What causes migraines?

No one knows what causes migraines. However, certain triggers can cause a migraine to start, and these triggers can vary.

Common triggers include:

  • Stress, not eating and poor sleeping habits
  • A change in the weather or your normal routine
  • Strong odors
  • Hormonal changes
  • Too much caffeine or withdrawals
  • Chocolate, aged cheese, nitrates, red wine and other fermented foods

Options for treatment

Your doctor may recommend trying over-the-counter pain medicines, such as acetaminophen, aspirin or ibuprofen. In some cases, your doctor may recommend prescription medications for treatment.

If migraines are frequent or interfere with activities, your doctor may prescribe a daily medicine to help prevent them.

Other types of treatment may also help, including:

Lifestyle changes

  • Reducing stress
  • Avoiding smoking, alcohol and caffeine
  • Eating/sleeping on a schedule
  • Exercising regularly


  • Acupuncture
  • Behavioral therapy

Talk to your doctor about the best way for you to treat or prevent a migraine.

Download a PDF of this article here.

1 National Headache Foundation. Facts about migraine. Available at: Accessed October 14, 2020.
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The information provided by Aetna® health and wellness programs is general in nature. It is not meant to replace the advice or care you get from your doctor or other health professional. If you have specific health care needs or would like more complete health information, please see your doctor or other health care provider. Refer to for more information about Aetna plans.  

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