What is a migraine?
Migraine is a disorder characterized by repeated attacks of severe headaches characterized by throbbing or pulsating pain, usually on only one side of the head. These headaches are often associated with nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and sound. Migraine headaches, which are often misdiagnosed as sinus or tension headaches, can last between four hours and three days, and are severe enough to interfere with sleep, work, and other everyday activities. They may occur as often as several times per week or as rarely as once or twice a year.
Migraines can begin occurring in childhood, adolescence or adulthood without any previous signs or triggers. It is most common in people 20 – 55 years of age, and is 3 times more common in women than men.
Migraines may progress through four stages, including prodrome, aura, headache and postdrome, though you may not experience all the stages.
One or two days before a migraine, you may notice subtle changes that signify an oncoming migraine, including:
- Food cravings
- Neck stiffness
- Uncontrollable yawning
Aura may occur before or during migraine headaches. Auras are nervous system symptoms that are usually visual disturbances, such as flashes of light. Sometimes auras can also be touching sensations, movement or speech disturbances. Most people experience migraine headaches without aura. Each of these symptoms usually begins gradually, builds up over several minutes, and then commonly lasts for 20 to 60 minutes. Examples of aura include:
- Visual phenomena, such as seeing various shapes, bright spots or flashes of light
- Vision loss
- Pins and needles sensations in an arm or leg
- Speech or language problems
When untreated, a migraine usually lasts from four to 72 hours, but the frequency with which headaches occur varies from person to person. You may have migraines several times a month or much less often. During a migraine, you may experience the following symptoms:
- Pain on one side or both sides of your head
- Pain that has a pulsating, throbbing quality
- Sensitivity to light, sounds and sometimes smells
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blurred vision
- Lightheadedness, sometimes followed by fainting
The final phase, known as postdrome, occurs after a migraine attack. During this time you may feel drained and washed out from dealing with the previous days of headaches, though some people report feeling mildly euphoric.
Even if you don’t necessarily follow all of the stages during each attack, any number of the mentioned symptoms appearing within a few hours or days of each other are generally a sign of an impending migraine attack. Other commonly reported symptoms include frequent urination, consistent yawning and loss of appetite.
Types of Migraines
A Common migraine occurs without an aura and includes symptoms such as fatigue, light & sound sensitivity and nausea. This is the most common type, making up approximately 80 percent of reported migraines. A Classic type is like the Common migraine but also includes auras involving flashing lights, tingling and blind spots. Auras can also include feelings of numbness or tingling, speaking difficulty, ringing in the ears, smelling a strange odor, or having an odd taste in the mouth.
Some of the other types of migraines include:
- Menstrual Migraine: This type of migraine is related to fluctuating levels in estrogen during a woman’s menstrual cycle. Around 60 to 70 percent of female migraine sufferers report a relationship between their migraine headaches and menstruation.
- Abdominal Migraine: Abdominal migraine is an episode of moderate to severe abdominal pain, nausea, or vomiting that can last up to 72 hours. It is typically seen in children, especially those with a family history of migraine. Children who suffer from abdominal migraines usually suffer from classic migraine headaches as adults.
- Retinal Migraine: Also known as ocular migraine, retinal migraine involves temporary partial or total loss of vision in one eye that can last an hour or less and is not always accompanied by headache.
A migraine is caused by abnormal brain activity, which can be triggered by a number of factors. However, the exact chain of events remains unclear. Today, most medical experts believe the attack begins in the brain, and involves nerve pathways and chemicals. The changes affect blood flow in the brain and surrounding tissues. Although much about the cause of migraines isn’t understood, genetics and environmental factors appear to play a role.
Alcohol, stress and anxiety, certain odors or perfumes, loud noises or bright lights, and smoking may also trigger a migraine.
Fluctuations in estrogen seem to trigger headaches in many women with known migraines. Women with a history of migraines often report headaches immediately before or during their periods, when they have a major drop in estrogen.
Others have an increased tendency to develop migraines during pregnancy or menopause.
Food can play a vital role in causing migraines. Salty foods, aged cheeses and MSG are common triggers, along with alcohol and highly caffeinated beverages.
Bright lights and sun glare can induce migraines, as can loud sounds. Unusual smells — including perfume, paint thinner, secondhand smoke and others — can trigger migraines in some people.
Changes in sleep patterns, weather or barometric pressure, and added stress or intense physical exertion are also known to trigger a migraine attack.
Migraines can’t be cured, and preventing future attacks is a lifelong commitment. The goal is to treat migraine symptoms right away and avoid or change the triggers that cause them. There are several options for pharmaceutical treatments, including pain relievers, antidepressants, beta blockers or seizure medications.
However, many migraine sufferers have found relief through lifestyle changes.
- Get enough sleep, but don’t oversleep. Get an adequate amount of sleep each night. It’s best to go to bed and wake up at regular times, as well.
- Rest and relax. If possible, rest in a dark, quiet room when you feel a headache coming on. Place an ice pack wrapped in a cloth on the back of your neck and apply gentle pressure to painful areas on your scalp.
- Keep a headache diary. Continue keeping your headache diary even after you see your doctor. It will help you learn more about what triggers your migraines and what treatment is most effective..
- Exercise regularly. Regular aerobic exercise reduces tension and can help prevent migraines. If your doctor agrees, choose any aerobic exercise you enjoy, including walking, swimming and cycling. Warm up slowly, however, because sudden, intense exercise can cause headaches. Obesity is also thought to be a factor in migraine headaches, and regular exercise can help you maintain a healthy weight or lose weight.
- Reduce the effects of estrogen. If you’re a woman who has migraines and estrogen seems to trigger or make your headaches worse, you may want to avoid or reduce the medications you take that contain estrogen.
Migraines can easily diminish your quality of life and ability to do things like work, sleep and attend social events. If you have recently begun to suffer from any of the symptoms discussed, Our Approach could be the most beneficial for you.
symptom source: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/migraine-headache/DS00120/DSECTION=symptoms