A migraine is a powerful headache causing severe pulsing or throbbing pain on one side of head. The headache may frequently be accompanied by nausea, vomiting and flashes of light. A migraine can last from a few hours to a few days. The severity often prevents one from doing routine activities. Sufferers get confined to bed. Sometimes there may be some warning symptoms before the actual headache. Treating migraine headaches are complex. It involves pain relief as well as preventive measures. Last, there a few different types of migraine. Come let’s find out the details.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Migraine headaches are divided into four stages. Prodome, aura, attack and post-drome.
In this stage, which occurs a few days before the migraine attack, persons notice some mild changes. These often provide a warning that an attack is about to occur. The changes are like –
- Mood swings
- Craving for food
STAGE OF AURA
Aura are symptoms of nervous system which occur just before or during an attack. They are mostly visual and stay for as long as an hour. They are –
- Flashes of light, seeing shapes
- Sensation of pricking or tinging sensation in the legs
- Hearing noises and music
- Vision loss
- Difficulty in speaking
ATTACK OF MIGRAINE
Migraine attacks can last for days together if not treated. They may occur a few times every month or not occur at all for months together. Their pattern differs in different people. In addition to that, the symptoms and severity may also differ. During such an attack, you might have an excruciating pain on one side or both sides of the head. Usually you feel the pain on one side of the forehead. Next, you may also have sensitivity to sounds and smell. Finally, the pain may be pulsing and throbbing. You may not be able to do even routine activities.
During this stage, you might feel tired and exhausted. This occurs after the acute stage resolves.
WHAT CAUSES MIGRAINE?
The causes are not clearly understood. It is believed that certain chemicals in our central nervous system are responsible of attacks. Additionally, these chemicals are susceptible to hormonal and environmental changes which trigger the headache. Although, we are unable to provide you the exact causes, we sure know various triggers and risk factors. Let’s look at those below.
WHAT TRIGGERS MIGRAINE?
- Alcohol – Wine triggers migraine more than other forms of alcohol.
- Fluctuations in sleep – Altered sleep patterns can cause the headache.
- Hormonal changes in women – Estrogen and progesterone levels alter during the menstrual cycle. These can cause migraine.
- Weather changes – Changes in temperature, humidity, wind and weather conditions are known to trigger migraine.
- Stress – Anxiety, worries and stress worsen your sleep pattern. Eventually they cause the headache.
- Medications – Oral contraceptives can worsen migraine.
- Food – Certain food items strongly trigger. Coffee, caffeine, tea, carbonated drinks and food preservatives are implicated. Monosodium glutamate and artificial sweeteners are risky too.
- Smell – Strong odors are known to cause migraine. Migraine sufferers tend to avoid perfumes and deodorants.
WHO IS MORE SUSCEPTIBLE TO GET MIGRAINE?
First, if your parents suffer from migraine, chances are that you will also. Second, the headache occurs more in women than in men. This could be due to the hormonal changes they undergo on a routine basis. Last, migraines are more during the 30s. Although they begin during adolescence, they peak in 30s and decrease after that as you age.
when to go to a doctor? what to expect in a clinic?
Migraines are often undiagnosed. Many adolescents suffer from this severe headache without knowing that they have migraine. If you suffer from the above symptoms then contact us. And, we shall guide you on how to proceed. However, if you have any of the following symptoms then get immediate support. Because, these may be symptoms of some serious underlying problem.
- New headache after 50 years of age
- Headache with projectile vomiting
- Seizures or fits
- Neck stiffness, confusion or altered mental status
Although migraine is diagnosed based on the clinical history, the doctor will try to confirm the same. Sometimes he may ask for a CT scan or an MRI scan. MRI scans help find out any problem with the blood vessels which may be causing the headache. The doctor may ask for blood tests to check for cell counts, hormone levels and vitamin deficiencies.
During an acute stage we give medicines to relieve the pain. We prescribe triptans, ergot alkaloids, pain relievers like ibuprofen and aspirin, anti-nausea medicines and sometimes opioids. However, in some worse scenarios, the patient is admitted and intravenous medicines are given.
Because the attacks are very severe and put you to bed, a lot of research is directed to migraine prevention. Some medicines which act on the nervous system and on serotonin (a neurotransmitter) help keep the attacks to a minimum. Anti-depressants like tryptomer, blood pressure lowering agents like inderal, and anti-seizure drugs like topiramate have proved useful. Try to take the preventive medicines in the same time of the day as directed by your physician.
ARE THERE HOME REMEDIES FOR MIGRAINE?
Yes, there are a few things that you can do from your end to keep these attacks to a minimum. First, learn what your triggers are and how to avoid them. Second, get adequate sleep at the same time of the night every time. Next, stay hydrated and choose your drinks wisely. Quit smoking. Learn some relaxation techniques and lead a stress free life. Avoid skipping meals. Last, exercise regularly and maintain an ideal body weight. Some of these were described in our previous post on headache.
is alternative therapy helpful?
Acupressure and acupuncture are useful to many who do not find adequate relief with standard medicines. Behaviour therapy and mind relaxation classes are helpful in reducing the frequency of the attacks. Finally, supplementing vitamins and minerals will remove deficiencies which may have caused the migraine.
If you wish to read more on migraine and about the different types please click here.
We hope your doubts regarding migraine headache are clarified. Nevertheless, we would love to hear from you. Please send us your feedback at firstname.lastname@example.org