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How do you know if you're having a migraine?

Migraine symptoms are much more severe than a regular headache, experts say.

HOUSTON — Christine Ryan knows all too well how crippling a migraine can be. In fact, she remembers how her very first one nearly paralyzed her. 

”I had this great pain in my head and I fell to the floor," Ryan said. 

That's how the first one started, and it would be the first of many migraines to come for Ryan. 

“I try to set myself up for not having a migraine," she said. "One of the first things that I’ve noticed, I do not eat for a long time. I’m one to skip breakfast, skip lunch. I’ll go 14 hours.” 

Not eating for prolonged periods of time can bring on a migraine. Stress, bright or flashing lights, loud sounds and strong smells can also cause a migraine.

You'll know if you're experiencing a migraine based on your symptoms. 

One thing to note, migraine symptoms are much more severe than a regular headache. Symptoms start with a warning sign -- also known as an "aura."

“They’ll see some sort of lights," UT Physicians neurologist Kimberly Monday described. "They may have some tingling in their body. They may not feel good, they may have fatigue yawn.” 

Those symptoms can quickly evolve into pain in one half of the head followed by nausea and even vomiting. 

It's not known why this happens to the brain, but knowing your triggers can help prevent a migraine. 

“Stress. The level of stress in your life. How much sleep you’re getting? When you sleep, you have a different chemical balance in your brain. When you’re not getting enough sleep, that alteration in chemicals can actually trigger migraines," Monday said. 

If you're like Ryan and would like to treat a migraine without prescription medication, this is what works for her. 

“Taking an icepack and putting it under my neck," she said. "It’ll help kind of calm the body and help that cycle so the ice cuts off the pain.” 

Ryan said stretching and using her tennis ball on her pressure points, which are in between your shoulder blades and hips, also helps to ease the pain. 

Click here to read more from our Health Matters series.

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