Migraine is characterized by severe headache with repeated attacks. A migraine headache causes pulsating or throbbing pain, typically on only one side of the head.
These headaches are usually associated with vomiting, an extreme sensitivity to sound and light, and nausea.
Generally, they last between a couple of hours and three days. Migraine headaches, often misdiagnosed as tension or sinus headaches, are severe enough in interfere with work, sleep, or any other kind of everyday activity. They may occur as rarely as once or twice a year or as often as several times per week.
It is still unknown what causes migraine, but there may be fluctuations in certain chemicals, neurotransmitters which send messages between cells in the brain. These changes can develop migraine headaches to some people.
What triggers migraines?
There are many triggers for migraine. Some women can experience migraine headaches, and the normal hormone fluctuations that occur with regular menstrual cycles may be predisposition. Also, the triggers can also be some types of oral contraceptives, such as birth control pills.
Various foods, such as aged cheeses, red wines, nitrates, artificial sweeteners, monosodium glutamate, chocolate, and even dairy products may trigger migraine headaches in individuals who are susceptible. Also, some patients find that stress, oversleeping, or exposure to strong stimuli such as loud noises, strong smells and bright lights, can lead to a migraine headache.
Changes in barometric pressure also lead to migraine headaches. Not every person who suffer from migraine will experience headaches when he or she is exposed to these triggers. If an individual is unsure what is the trigger for his or her migraine headaches, maintaining a headache diary can be helpful in order to identify those individual factors which cause migraine.
Migraine headaches can occur in childhood, adolescence or even early adulthood. Usually, migraines go through four stages, though you may not experience all of them. They include prodrome, aura, headache and postdrome.
One or two day before a migraine appears, you may notice some changes which signify an oncoming migraine, such as depression, food carvings, irritability, uncontrollable yawning, constipation, hyperactivity, or neck stiffness.
During or before migraine headaches aura may occur. Auras are nervous system symptoms which are typically visual disturbances, such as strong light. Auras can sometimes be touching sensations (sensory), speech (verbal) or movement (motor) disturbances. However, many people experience migraine headaches without aura. Usually, each symptom starts gradually, builds up over a few minutes, and then lasts for 20 minutes to one hour. Some examples of aura are:
– Vision loss
– Language or speech problems
– Needles and pins sensations in a leg or arm
– Visual phenomena, such as seeing flashes of light, bright spots, and various shapes
– Aura can be associated with weakness in limbs, though it’s less common
If migraine is untreated it can last from 4 to 72 hours. However, the frequency of headaches varies from person to person. A person can have migraines a few times a month or much less often. During a migraine, some of the symptoms you may experience are:
– Pain that has a throbbing
– Pulsating quality
– Vomiting and nausea
– Pain on one or both sides of your head
– Sensitivity to sounds, light and sometimes smells
– Blurred vision
Postdrome is the final phase which occurs after a migraine attack. In this phase you may feel washed out or drained, though some people said they felt mildly euphoric.
Treatments and drugs
The treatment for migraines depends upon on how long the headaches last and how frequently the headaches occur. Acute migraine headache treatment may vary from over-the-counter medicines, such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen, to prescription medications. Triptans (frovatriptan, almotriptan,naratriptan, zolmitriptan, eletriptan, rizatriptan, and sumatriptan), may be prescribed to help the patient treat their migraine at home and triptans may be extremely effective.
There are specific limitations regarding how much of these medications can be used and not ever patient can take these medications. There are also other regimens which may also be used to control headaches. Some medications require a visit to the emergency department or the health care professional’s office and some medications are appropriate for home use.
Narcotic pain medications are not recommended for migraine headaches treatment and they are associated with rebound headache, where the headache returns, sometimes even stronger, when the narcotics wear off. If a person has a frequent headaches, or if he or she has headaches which last for a few days, then preventive medications may be indicated. These medications may be prescribed on a daily basis in an attempt to decrease severity, duration, and frequency of migraine headaches.
There are a lot of different medications that are effective in this role, such as antidepressant medications (venlafaxine and amitriptyline), blood pressure medications (nadolol, propranolol, flunarizine, and verapamil), anti-seizure medications (gabapentin, topiramate, and divalproex sodium), and other supplements (riboflavin, butterbur, and magnesium). The specific medications for every patient depends on a number of factors, such as sex, blood pressure, age, and other pre-existing medical conditions.
There is always some component of risk for people who are susceptible to developing migraines. However, daily avoidance of headache triggers and use of medications are often effective in prevention.