A migraine is a type of headache that causes throbbing pain on one side of the head. The pain can typically be classified as moderate to severe and can last up to three days.
A person usually experiences other symptoms along with a migraine, such as nausea, blurred vision and lightheadedness. It is estimated that 12 percent of people in the United States suffer from migraines.
Causes of Migraines
Researchers have not yet identified the cause of migraines. However, they have found that there are some things that can directly contribute to migraines.
Bright lights, severe heat, hormonal changes, changes in barometric pressure, lack of sleep and skipping meals can trigger a migraine. Certain food additives and ingredients can also cause migraines. Alcohol, potato chips, pizza, chicken liver and smoked foods are some of the foods that may trigger migraines in people.
The triggers vary person to person, which is why doctors recommend that you keep a headache journal. This helps them narrow down what may be causing your migraines.
Anyone can develop a migraine. Many people develop migraines during their childhood or early adulthood, but they can start at any age. Women are more likely to develop migraines than men and it usually runs in families.
Symptoms of a Migraine
In most cases, before some people get a migraine, they develop symptoms. Symptoms also vary person to person, so it’s worthwhile to pay attention when you think you might be getting a migraine. Symptoms typically develop one to two days before a migraine starts.
Some general symptoms include depression, fatigue, irritability, hyperactivity and frequent yawning. It is also estimated that 30 to 50 percent of people experience an aura before they get a migraine. An aura can cause you to see flashes of light, experience transient vision loss and even have difficulty speaking. You may also experience a tingling sensation in your arms or legs.
During a migraine attack, you may experience a painful throbbing sensation, vomiting and increased sensitivity to light and sound. These same symptoms can persist for up to 24 hours after your migraine is over. This is known as the post-drone phase. Moodiness, dizziness and confusion are some of the affects you might experience during this.
Risks Associated with Migraines
Migraines can have a number of negative consequences. Many people suffer from migraines 15 days out of the month. This can cause them to miss several days of work or school. The medications that are often used to treat migraines can also cause adverse health problems.
Your primary care doctor may refer you to a neurologist if you suffer from migraines. A neurologist will order blood tests to see whether you have an infection or toxins in your system.
A neurologist might also order a magnetic resonance imaging test. This is a test that produces a detailed image of the blood vessels and brain.
They may also order a computerized tomography, or CT, scan. This test creates images of the brain using x-rays. CT scans can be used to diagnose brain bleeding, tumors and brain damage.
Additionally, a spinal tap can also be used to diagnose the cause of migraines. This test involves inserting a needle into the back and taking cerebrospinal fluid. This fluid will be analyzed in a lab.
Medications for Migraines
Pain-relieving medications are typically recommended for people who suffer from migraines.
Triptans are one of the most popular types of pain-relieving medications. They work by blocking the pain pathways and constricting blood vessels in the brain.
Ergots are another type of medication that can be used to treat migraines. However, they are not as effective as triptans. Ergots work best when they are taken as soon the migraine starts.
Because nausea often accompanies the migraine, doctors may recommend anti-nausea medications as well.
Additionally, glucocorticoids can be used to treat migraines. Even though they are effective, they cannot be used for long periods of time as they can cause serious side effects.
Treating Migraines at Home
There are a few things that you can do at home to ease the pain of a migraine.
For instant pain relief, you can try massaging the side of your head, specifically where the migraine is located.
Placing a cool cloth across your forehead may alleviate some of the throbbing. Keep in mind you should be making notes on any triggers you are noticing. Try and avoid them if at all possible.
Can Alternative Medicine Treat Migraines?
There has been evidence to suggest that there are some alternative treatments that can be used to alleviate migraine pain.
Acupuncture may help alleviate migraine pain. It involves placing several disposable needles into the skin to relieve different pressure points.
Massage therapy can also be effective for treating migraines. Since some migraines may be caused by tense muscles, massage is a good treatment to look at. There have been clinical trials that have shown massage therapy can reduce the intensity and frequency of migraines.
Additionally, there are some supplements that can be used to treat migraines. Coenzyme Q10 supplements have been linked to a reduction in migraine frequency. However, there needs to be more studies done to examine the effectiveness of this supplement.
Many people who have migraines are deficient in magnesium. Some people find that taking a magnesium supplement to offset this lessens the intensity of their migraines. Ask your doctor if a supplement is right for you.
There are a few things that you can do in order to reduce your risk of getting a migraine. Because migraines are often triggered by food and beverage, you should start watching what you eat and drink. Also, make sure you are eating regularly so you aren’t putting unnecessary stress on your body.
Furthermore, you should get plenty of rest. Migraines often occur when your sleep patterns are thrown off.
Caffeine use can trigger a migraine. You may want to reduce your consumption of it before cutting it out of your diet completely. Withdrawing from caffeine can trigger migraines in some people since your body has most likely become dependent on it.
Stress is not a main cause of migraines; however, it can add to the severity of them. Making sure you have some sort of stress management system in place can go a long way in alleviating some of your migraines. Meditating, praying, doing yoga and exercising are some of the things that you can do in order to manage stress.
If you have had a long history of migraines, then your physician may recommend medication that can help prevent migraines. Beta blockers, which are often used to treat high blood pressure and heart problems, can be used to prevent migraines.
Antidepressants may also be recommended to people who suffer from migraines. They alter the levels of serotonin and other brain chemicals. It is important to note that antidepressants can cause a number of health problems, so talk to your doctor thoroughly before taking them.