Migraine (Disabling Headache): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Migraine (Disabling Headache): Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Migraine is a genetic neurological disease, characterized by episodes often called Migraine attacks. They are quite different from regular headaches which are non-migrainous.Migraines are called primary headaches because the pain isn’t caused by another disorder or disease such as a brain tumor or head injury. Some cause pain on just the right side or left side of the head, others result in pain all over. Migraine sufferers may have moderate or severe pain and usually can’t participate in normal activities because of the pain. Often when a migraine strikes, people try to find a quiet, dark room.

Many people experience migraines lasting for at least four hours or may last for days. The range of time someone is affected by an attack is actually longer than the migraine itself, as there is a pre-monitory, or build-up phase, and a post-drome that can last one to two days.

The International Headache Society breaks migraines into two categories: migraine with aura and migraine without aura. Aura causes sufferers to see spots, lights or blurry lines before pain strikes, among other symptoms.

Migraine is the third most common disease in the world (behind dental caries and tension-type headache) with an estimated global prevalence of 14.7% (that’s around 1 in 7 people). Migraine is more prevalent than diabetes, epilepsy and asthma combined. Chronic migraine affects approximately 2% of the world population. Migraine affects three-times as many women as men, with this higher rate being most likely hormonally-driven.

Research suggests that 3,000 migraine attacks occur every day for each million of the general population. There are about 100 million people with headaches in the U.S.; about 37 million of these people have migraines. The World Health Organization suggests that 18 percent of women and 7 percent of men in the U.S. suffer from migraines

Self diagnosis – Migraine headaches can cause throbbing in one particular area that can vary in intensity. Nausea and sensitivity to light and sound are also common symptoms.

How does Migraine affect your body?

Migraine pain happens due to waves of activity by groups of excitable brain cells. These trigger chemicals, such as serotonin, to narrow blood vessels. Serotonin is a chemical necessary for communication between nerve cells. It can cause narrowing of blood vessels throughout the body. When serotonin or estrogen levels change, the result for some is a migraine. Serotonin levels may affect both sexes, while fluctuating estrogen levels affect women only.

What are the Causes of Migraine?

Migraine is a disorder that has a genetic basis. Thus, there are no known causes of migraine.

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What are the Risk Factors of Migraine?

Common risk factors include :

  • Heredity – About 90 percent of migraine sufferers have a family history of the condition.
  • Age – Migraine sufferers typically experience their first symptoms during adolescence. Most people who have migraines have had their first attack before they reach the age of 40. But migraines can start at any time in life, depending on other factors.
  • Gender – During childhood, migraines typically affect boys more than girls, but this trend reverses during adolescence. In adulthood, women are much more likely than men to experience migraines. It seems that hormonal changes, specifically involving estrogen, play a role.  Some women find that hormonal medications such as contraceptives or hormone replacement therapy worsen migraines, while others find they lessen the frequency of their headaches.
  • Menstruation and Menopause – Women who experience migraines often do so immediately before, or shortly after, their menstrual period, when there is a drop in estrogen levels.  The frequency, severity, and duration of migraines may change during pregnancy or menopause. Some women report that they experienced their first migraine attack during pregnancy or that their attacks worsened during pregnancy, while others experience fewer headaches.
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What are the symptoms of Migraine?

Common symptoms of migraine are :

  • Throbbing, pulsating pain
  • Light sensitivity
  • Sound sensitivity
  • Nausea
  • Pain on one side
  • Vision changes, blurred vision
  • Aura
  • Vomiting
  • Sensitivity to smell
  • Stiff neck
  • Dizziness or dizzy spells
  • Cloudy vision or other vision changes
  • Weakness
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How is Migraine diagnosed?

The diagnosis usually happens if people have a combination of symptoms and doctors have ruled out other disorders.

Migraine with aura causes sufferers to see spots, lights or blurry lines before pain strikes, among other symptoms.

Migraine without aura causes nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, sensitivity to sound or sensitivity to smell.

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How to prevent & control Migraine?

  • Avoid foods that trigger migraine – If you get a headache, write down the foods and drinks you had before it started. If you see a pattern over time, stay away from that item.
  • Eat regularly – Don’t skip meals.
  • Avoid caffeine – Too much, in any food or drink, can cause migraines. But cutting back suddenly may also cause them. So try to slowly ease off caffeine if it seems to be one of your headache triggers.
  • Do regular exercise – Everyone needs regular physical activity. It’s a key part of being healthy. But it can trigger headaches for some people. If you’re one of them, you can still work out. Ask your doctor what would help.
  • Get enough sleep – If your sleep habits get thrown off, or if you’re very tired, that can make a migraine more likely.
  • Minimize stress – There are many ways to do it. You could exercise, meditate, pray, spend time with people you love, and do things you enjoy. If you can change some of the things that make you tense, set up a plan for that. Counseling and stress management classes are great to try, too. You can also look into biofeedback, where you learn how to influence certain things (like your heart rate and breathing) to calm down stress.

Treatment of Migraine Allopathic Treatment

Common medications include :

  • Triptans like Imitrex, Relpax, Amerge, Frova, Axert, Maxalt, and Zomig. They ease nausea and pain, as well as sensitivity to light and sound.
  • Butalbital, a sedative, is often combined with acetaminophen, aspirin, caffeine, or codeine to treat migraines. Narcotics like meperidine are also an option.
  • Over-the-counter painkillers such as acetaminophen and nonsteroidal anti-inflammatories like ibuprofen and naproxen can help ease migraines, too.
  • Also, for preventing or reducing the frequency of migraine attacks, drugs such as amitriptyline, ergonovine, propranolol, clonidine, methysergide, cyproheptadine, calcium channel antagonists, valproic acid, carbamazepine, and topiramate are used.

Treatment of Migraine Homeopathic Treatment

  • Belladonna – This relieves headaches with the feeling of head fullness, and sensitivity to noise and light.
  • Bryonia – This can be helpful if a person has a heavy or “splitting” headache, with steady pain that settles over one eye (especially the left) or spreads to the entire head. Pain is worse from any motion, even from moving the eyes, and the person wants to lie completely still and not be talked to or disturbed. Nausea with a heavy feeling in the stomach and vomiting may occur. The person can have a very dry mouth and usually is thirsty.
  • Gelsemium -Itrelieves congestive headaches at the base of the head, as well as headaches around the eye, caused or aggravated by stress.
  • Glonoinum – It relieves sudden headaches, with fullness of head and feeling of heat, and aggravated by heat.
  • Ignatia – This is helpful for migraines in sensitive people, especially headaches after emotional upsets or caused by grief. The headache is often focused on one side of the head, and may feel as if a nail is driven in. Twitching in the face or spasms in the muscles of the neck and back frequently occur. The person often sighs or yawns and may sometimes weep or seem “hysterical.”
  • Iris versicolor – Intense migraines with blurry vision and pain that extends to the face and teeth, along with vomiting and a burning feeling in the throat and stomach, can often be relieved with this remedy. The person feels worse from resting and better from motion.
  • Natrum muriaticum – Migraines (often on the right) that are worse from grief or emotional upsets, worse from too much sun, or occur just before or after the menstrual period, are likely to respond to this remedy. The headache feels like “a thousand little hammers were knocking on the brain” and is often worse from eyestrain. The person may have numb or tingling feelings in the lips or face before the headache starts, and the eyes are very sensitive to light. The person often feels better lying in the dark and after sleeping.
  • Nux vomica – It relieves nausea and digestive troubles associated with overindulgence in food or alcohol.
  • Sanguinaria – Right-sided migraines with tension in the neck and shoulder, extending to the forehead with a bursting feeling in the eye, are often relieved with this remedy. Jarring, light, and noise aggravate discomfort. The headaches improve after vomiting, as well as from burping or passing gas, and are often better after sleep. A person who needs this remedy often comes down with migraines after missing meals, and also has digestive problems and allergies.
  • Sepia – Left-sided migraines with dizziness and nausea, worse from missing meals, and worse near menstrual periods or during menopause, often responds to this remedy. Pain may come in shocks or jerks, and the person feels worse indoors and from lying on the painful side. A person needing Sepia feels weary, cold, and irritable, wanting no one to make demands on them.
  • Silicea (also called Silica) – Migraines that come on after mental exertion or near the menstrual period may indicate a need for this remedy-especially in a nervous person who is very chilly. Headaches are usually right-sided, starting in the back of the head and extending to the forehead, and are worse from drafts or from going out in the cold without a hat. The person may feel better from lying down in a dark, warm room and also from covering the head.
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Migraine – Lifestyle Tips

  • Practice good sleep habits
  • Avoid foods that trigger migraine symptoms, such as chocolate, certain cheeses, or alcohol
  • Reduce stress
  • Take over-the-counter pain medicine (such as naproxen, acetaminophen, or
  • ibuprofen) as soon as you notice symptoms and lie down in a quiet, dark room
  • Avoid using medicines called opioids to treat pain from migraines. They are not as effective as other medicines and have serious risks.

What are Recommended Exercises for Person with Migraine?

The best type of exercise for relieving migraine is yoga . The cumulative effect of yoga over time has shown to be a worthwhile source of alleviation for people with migraine, according to research. One analysis showed that patients who participated in 30 sessions of yoga over six weeks experienced a reduction in migraine frequency and intensity, particularly when coupled with more standard treatments.

Migraine & Pregnancy – Things to know

If you were prone to getting migraines before getting pregnant, you may experience stronger headaches, or you may find that they diminish during pregnancy.

Most health care providers consider acetaminophen (Tylenol) to be the pain relief medication of choice during pregnancy, but you should always talk with your doctor before taking any medication.

Pregnant women should NOT take anything containing aspirin or ibuprofen (e.g., Advil, Motrin) unless prescribed by a health care provider. Consult your doctor about the best form of pain relief for your migraines.

Common Complications Related to Migraine

  • Stroke – An ischaemic stroke occurs when the blood supply to the brain is blocked by a blood clot or fatty material in the arteries.Studies have shown that people who experience migraines (particularly migraine with aura) have about twice the risk of having an ischaemic stroke at some point compared to people without migraines. However, this risk is still small.
  • Mental health problems – Migraine is associated with a very small increased risk of mental health problems, including depression, bipolar disorder,anxiety disorder and panic disorder

Other FAQs about Migraine

Q. How long does it take for a migraine attack to go away?

A. Migraines are disabling headaches that most likely stem from problems with the nerves and blood vessels in the head. Migraine headaches typically last from 4-72 hours. They may occur as often as several times a week to only once a year. People who have migraines are called migraineurs.

Q. What time of day do migraines usually occur?

A. Migraine can occur any time of the day, though it often starts in the morning. The pain can last a few hours or up to one or two days. Some people get migraines once or twice a week. Others, only once or twice a year.

Q. Are migraines a serious health problem?

A. Migraines and several other headache disorders are a real source of pain, but most of the time, they’re not signs that you have a serious medical problem. But when you have new symptoms or problems that are more severe than normal, it’s worth talking to your doctor.


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