Migraine

Person comforting another because of headache | Healthier Me TodayA migraine is not just a headache, it is a complex neurological disease that impacts more than a billion people worldwide. Migraines are a disease where one or more parts of the neurological communication system do not function properly. Genes program ion channels, neurotransmitters, and other structures that support these nerve pathways. Those with migraines inherited changes to genes called mutations. Mutations can cause the communication system to become hypersensitive.

Most mutations do not directly cause migraines but, in combination with other factors, may explain why there are so many forms and symptoms of migraines. People with migraines may have anxiety, depression, epilepsy, hypothyroidism, irritable bowel syndrome, pelvic floor pain, fibromyalgia, and more.


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Typical Phases of Migraines

  1. Prodrome: This phase starts hours before a headache. It includes subtle symptoms such as yawning, fatigue, or mood swings.
  2. Aura: Only a few people experience this. Short-term visual changes like zigzags, flashes of light, and blind spots occur before a headache. Auras can also include numbness, confusion, vertigo, or muscle weakness.
  3. Headache: Throbbing headaches may occur in only one side of the head, often lasting 4 to 72 hours. Other symptoms include light and noise sensitivity or nausea.
  4. Postdrome: A person feels that they have a hangover that lasts for another day or two.

Types of Migraines

  • Common migraine, which has no ‘aura.’
  • Classic migraines have an ‘aura’ before the headache and are more severe than more common migraines.
  • Silent or acephalgic migraine occurs with an aura but there is no headache.
  • Hemiplegic migraine may have some similarities with stroke, like one side of the body, feels weak.
  • Retinal migraine causes temporary loss of vision in one eye. This is a sign of a more serious condition and a doctor must be consulted as soon as possible.
  • Chronic migraine is a type of migraine that lasts for more than 15 days a month.
  • Status migrainosus is a constant migraine headache that lasts for more than 72 hours.

Triggers of Migraines

Migraines are triggered by stress, hormonal changes, or sometimes changes in the environment. A study done by Danish researchers found that 50-80% of people living with migraines have attacks that are linked to stress triggers. Erratic sleep schedules can also trigger a migraine. Skipping meals and dehydration have also been found to trigger migraines in some people. Migraines are the third most common illness in the world. Globally, approximately 12-15% of people are affected by migraines. 75% of migraine sufferers are women.

How to Treat Migraines

Your doctor may recommend some of the following options:

  • Painkillers: These include medications like paracetamol and ibuprofen.
  • Triptans: Medicines that help reverse the chemical changes occurring during a migraine attack.
  • Antiemetics: These medications relieve symptoms like nausea and feeling sick.
  • Many people find sleeping in a dark room helps them feel better too.

How to Manage Migraines

a woman holds her hands over her face

Migraines affect the quality of life, where the person having them is unable to carry out daily activities. Some people might find that they need rest and to stay in bed for days at a time. If you observe that a specific trigger causes migraines, for example, a particular food, try to avoid it. Avoiding triggers helps reduce the risk of having a migraine attack.

It also helps if you maintain a healthy lifestyle, which includes regular exercise, sleep, balanced meals, as well as keeping yourself hydrated. Limiting the intake of caffeine and alcohol can also aid in the reduction of migraines.

If your migraines get more severe even though you have tried avoiding all possible triggers, then you must consult a doctor. Your doctor may prescribe medicines to help prevent further attacks.


FAQ

  1. Are migraines associated with strokes? No, migraines are not associated with strokes. A stroke occurs when a blockage in the blood vessel makes it leak or burst. Oxygen deficiency causes the brain cells to die. A stroke is a medical emergency. A migraine aura may resemble a transient ischemic attack (TIA) and symptoms associated with a stroke may occur, but there is no established link to prove that they are associated.
  2. Can home remedies help relieve migraine pain? There are various lifestyle changes that can help manage migraine frequency and severity. Apart from the usual ones like a healthy diet, exercise, and good sleep, one can also incorporate yoga and meditation. Yoga calms down the body and helps fight stress as well.
  3. What does aura mean? An aura is a visual indicator that happens before the headache starts typically. It can take the form of blind spots, sparks, bright dots, and zigzags.
  4. What type of doctor should I consult to relieve my migraine pain? You can use the American Migraine Foundation’s website to find a specialized doctor.

Healthier Me Today is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment, always consult with your healthcare professional. Stay healthy!

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