A migraine can cause serious throbbing pain or a pulsing sensation, often on just one side of the head. It’s often comes with nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to sound and light.
Migraine attacks can lead to significant pain for hours to days and can be so serious that the pain is disabling.
Warning symptoms called aura may happen before or with the headache. These may include flashes of light, tingling or blind spots, on one side of the face or in your arm or leg.
Medications can help stop some migraines and make them less painful. Contact your doctor about various migraine treatment options if you can’t find relief. The right medications, combined with self-help remedies and lifestyle changes, may be of great help.
Migraines usually begin in childhood, adolescence or early adulthood. Migraines may continue through four stages: prodrome, aura, headache and post-drome, though you may not experience all the stages.
A day or two before a migraine, you may notice small changes that warn of an upcoming migraine, this may include:
Mood changes, from depression to euphoria
Increased thirst and urination
Aura may happen before or during migraines. Most people have migraines without aura.
Auras are symptoms of the nervous system. They are often visual disturbances; including flashes of light or wavy, zigzag vision.
Sometimes auras can also be movement (motor) touching sensations (sensory), or speech (verbal) disturbances. Your muscles may become impaired, or you may have the feeling that someone is touching you.
Each of these symptoms often begins gradually; pile up over several minutes and lasts for about 20 to 60 minutes. For instance:
Visual phenomena, including seeing various shapes, flashes of light or bright spots
Hearing noises or music
Pins and needles sensations in an arm or leg
Uncontrollable jerking or other movements
Impaired or numbness in the face or one side of the body
Sometimes, a migraine with aura may be connected with limb impairment (hemiplegic migraine).
A migraine often lasts from 4 to 72 hours if left untreated. The frequency with which headaches occur differs from person to person. Migraines may be uncommon, or strike several times every month. During a migraine, you may have:
Pain that feels throbbing or pulsing
Pain on one side or both sides of your head
Sensitivity to light, sounds, and sometimes smells and touch
Nausea and vomiting
Lightheadedness, sometimes followed by fainting
The final stage, known as post-drome, happens after a migraine attack. You may feel washed out and drained, while some people feel elated. For about 24 hours, you may also be:
Sensitivity to light and sound
When to see a doctor
Migraines are normally undiagnosed and untreated. If you constantly experience signs and symptoms of migraine attacks, take the record of your attacks and how you treated them. Then keep an appointment with your doctor to discuss your problem.
Even if you have a history of headaches, talk to your doctor if the pattern changes or your headaches suddenly changes.
Contact your doctor immediately or go to the emergency room if you have any of the listed signs and symptoms, which may show a more severe medical problem:
An abrupt, serious headache like a thunderclap
Headache with fever, numbness, mental confusion, weakness, stiff neck, seizures, double vision, or trouble speaking
New headache pain if you’re older than 50
Headache after a head injury, particularly if the headache gets worse
A chronic headache that is worse after exertion, straining, coughing, or a sudden movement
Though migraine causes aren’t clear, genetics and environmental factors seems to play a role.
Migraines may be as a result of changes in the brainstem and its relation with the trigeminal nerve, a central pain pathway.
Imbalances in brain chemicals such as serotonin, which regulate pain in your nervous system also, may be involved. Studies are still analyzing the role of serotonin in migraines.
Serotonin levels falls during migraine attacks. This may make your trigeminal nerve to secrete substances known as neuropeptides, which transit to your brain’s outer covering (meninges). The outcome is migraine pain. Other neurotransmitters play a role in the pain of migraine, such as calcitonin gene-related peptide (CGRP).
SEE ALSO:CLUSTER HEADACHE VERSUS MIGRAINES
Listed factors may cause migraines, including:
Hormonal changes in women: Swing in estrogen appears to trigger headaches in many women. Women with a history of migraines usually report headaches immediately before or during their periods, when they have a major decrease in estrogen.
Others have a high tendency to have migraines during pregnancy or menopause.
Hormonal medications, including oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy, also may worsen migraines. Some women, however, find their migraines happen less often while taking these medications.
Foods: Aged cheeses, salty foods and processed foods may caused migraines. Skipping meals or fasting also can cause attacks.
Food additives: The sweetener aspartame and the preservative monosodium glutamate (MSG), contained in many foods, may cause migraines.
Drinks: Alcohol, such as wine, and highly caffeinated beverages may cause migraines.
Stress: Stress at work or home can trigger migraines.
Sensory stimuli: Bright lights and sun glare can cause migraines, as can loud sounds. Strong smells such as perfume, paint thinner, secondhand smoke and many more can induce migraines in some people.
Changes in wake-sleep pattern: missing sleep or getting too much sleep may induce migraines in some people, as can jet lag.
Physical factors: Severe physical exertion, such as sexual activity, may trigger migraines.
Changes in the environment: A change of weather or barometric pressure can induce a migraine.
Medications: Oral contraceptives and vasodilators, including nitroglycerin, can aggravate migraines.
Several factors make you more liable to have migraines, including:
Family history: If you have a family member suffering migraines, then you are at high risk of developing them too.
Age: Migraines may begin at any age, though the first usually occurs during adolescence. Migraines seem to peak during your 30s, and gradually become less serious and less frequent in the following years.
Sex: Women are three times more liable to have migraines. Headaches appear to affect boys more than girls during childhood, but during puberty stage and beyond, more girls are affected.
Hormonal changes: If you are a woman and has migraines, you may have headaches begin just before or shortly after beginning of menstruation.
They may also change during pregnancy or menopause. Migraines normally improve after menopause.
Some women complain that migraine attacks begin during pregnancy, or get worsen. For many, the attacks increase or didn’t happen during later stages in the pregnancy. Migraines usually recur during the postpartum period.
Sometimes your efforts to control your migraine pain cause issues, such as:
Abdominal problems: Certain pain relievers such as nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), known as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin IB, others), may result to abdominal pain, ulcers, bleeding, and other problems, particularly if taken in large doses or for a long period of time.
Medication-overuse headaches: Taking over-the-counter medications or prescription headache medications more than 10 days per month for three months or in high doses may cause severe medication-overuse headaches.
Medication-overuse headaches happen when medications stop relieving pain and start causing headaches. You then use more pain reliever medication, which continues the cycle.
Serotonin syndrome: Serotonin syndrome is an uncommon, potentially life-threatening disease that happens when your body has excess of the nervous system chemical known as serotonin.
While the risk is considered extremely low, taking migraine medications known as triptans and antidepressants called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) or serotonin and norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors (SNRIs) may enhance the risk of serotonin syndrome. These medications naturally increase serotonin levels, and it is possible that mixing them could cause levels that are extremely high.
Triptans and SSRIs or SNRIs may be taken together, but it’s necessary to watch out for possible symptoms of serotonin syndrome including changes in cognition, behavior and muscle control (such as involuntary jerking).
Triptans involve medications such as sumatriptan (Imitrex) or zolmitriptan (Zomig). Some knew SSRIs include fluoxetine (Sarafem, sertraline (Zoloft), Prozac) and paroxetine (Paxil). SNRIs include venlafaxine (Effexor XR) and duloxetine (Cymbalta).
Also, some people have complications from migraines such as:
Chronic migraine: If your migraine lasts for about 15 days or more a month for more than three months, you have chronic migraine.
Status migrainosus: People with this problem have severe migraine attacks that last for longer than three days.
Persistent aura without infarction: Normally an aura goes away after the migraine attack, but most time aura lasts for more than one week afterward. A persistent aura may have related symptoms to bleeding in the brain (stroke), but without any sign of bleeding in the brain, tissue damage or other issue.
Migrainous infarction: Aura symptoms that last longer than an hour can induce a loss of blood supply to a region of the brain (stroke), and should be evaluated. Doctors can conduct neuro-imaging tests to evaluate bleeding in the brain.
Until recently, studies recommended avoiding common migraine causes. Some triggers can’t be prevented, and avoidance isn’t always effective. But some of these lifestyle changes and coping strategies may help you minimize the number and seriousness of your migraines:
Transcutaneous supraorbital nerve stimulation (t-SNS): This device (Cefaly), similar to a headband with attached electrodes, was recently confirmed by the Food and Drug Administration as a preventive antidote for migraines. In study, those that used the device experienced fewer migraines.
Learn to cope: Recent research appears that a strategy known as learning to cope (LTC) may help stop migraines. In this practice, you are gradually showed to headache triggers to help desensitize you to them. LTC may also be mixed with cognitive behavioral therapy. More research is required to better understand the effectiveness of LTC.
Create a consistent daily schedule: Create a daily routine with constant sleep methods and regular meals. In addition, try to control stress.
Exercise regularly: Constant aerobic exercise lowers tension and can help stop migraines. If your doctor agrees, opt for any aerobic exercise you enjoy, such as walking, swimming and cycling. Warm up slowly, however, because prompt, intense exercise can trigger headaches. Regular exercise can also help you lose weight or keep a healthy body weight, and obesity is known to be a factor in migraines.
Reduce the effects of estrogen: If you are a woman who has migraines and estrogen appears to trigger or cause your headaches worse, you may want to avoid or lower the medications you take that has estrogen.
These medications are birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy. Discuss with your doctor about the right alternatives or dosages for you.